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  • Rama Al-Erksusi

The Dental Supply Chain: A Comprehensive Guide to What It Is and How It Works

Updated: Jan 9



When it comes to dental health, it is important to understand the intricate supply chain that makes it all possible. The dental supply chain is an integral part of the dental industry. It involves the movement of dental supplies and services from the manufacturer to the dentist, to the patient. Understanding the dental supply chain is important for those in the dental industry, as well as those seeking dental care. This comprehensive guide provides an overview of the dental supply chain, what it is, and how it works. It will discuss the different steps in the chain, and the challenges associated with it. The guide will also provide tips on how to maximize efficiency and minimize costs within the dental supply chain.


What is the Dental Supply Chain?


A dental supply chain is a network of organizations and people involved in the production, distribution, sale, and use of dental products and services. It can be thought of as a supply and demand chain where manufacturers, distributors, and retailers are connected via the demand for their products. However, it can also be considered a “reverse” supply chain, where demand is in the form of dental service providers (e.g., dentists, suppliers, and laboratories) submitting orders for supplies and materials.


This process starts when manufacturers design and produce products like dental implants, crown and bridge systems, and other equipment. Once the products are designed and manufactured, they are shipped to a distributor who then sends them to a dental provider such as a dentist or dental lab. The dental provider then uses the products to provide services to patients like cleanings, dentures, and other services and that’s where the supply chain ends.


The Different Steps in the Dental Supply Chain

The Dental Supply Chain consists of a number of different steps:

  • Product design and development - Manufacturers produce and design the products and tools that dentists use to provide dental services to patients.

  • Product testing - To ensure the quality of their products, manufacturers test the products to make sure that they are effective, safe, and reliable.

  • Distribution - Once the products are designed and tested, the manufacturers ship the products to distributors who then send them to dental providers when ordered.

  • Selecting Products and Inventory Management - Here is where the process of selecting products begins, which usually happens through an online catalog. Dental providers should also focus on their inventory management at this stage. Most dental service providers work with a “just-in-time” (JIT) inventory model, where inventory is only kept as needed and not kept in excess. This decreases the amount of money spent on inventory as well as the amount of space it takes up.

  • Supplier Selection and Order Placement - Once the products have been selected, the next step would be to select a supplier and place the order.

  • Delivery / Fulfillment - This is where the selected supplier proceeds to deliver the order through several ways of handling and transportation.

  • Product use - Once dentists receive the products, they use them to provide dental services to patients and that’s the final step in the dental supply chain.

Challenges in the Dental Supply Chain


The dental supply chain is a complex system that involves a number of different stakeholders. This means that there is also a significant risk of encountering challenges along the way. It is important to recognize these challenges in order to minimize their impact and make the necessary adjustments to ensure a smooth system. Below are some of the most common challenges within the dental supply chain.

  • Timing issues - Timing issues occur when the dental supply chain does not have enough capacity to meet demand. This can be due to a number of different factors, such as an increase in demand, disruptions in supply, or a supplier going out of business.

  • Communication issues - Communication issues occur when there is a breakdown in communication between the stakeholders involved in the dental supply chain. This can happen due to a number of different reasons, such as lack of regulation, not following industry standards, or not being part of an industry association.

  • Cost issues - Cost issues occur when the amount of money spent on the dental supply chain is too high. This can be due to a variety of different factors, such as the distance between the manufacturer and the dentist, the fact that certain equipment is manufactured in an inefficient way, or the over-purchasing of unneeded supplies.


Maximizing Efficiency and Minimizing Costs in the Dental Supply Chain


Businesses within the dental supply chain can maximize efficiency and minimize costs by following a number of practices. These include using a JIT inventory model, using reverse logistics, and using dental supplies procurement platforms. As discussed earlier, the “just-in-time” inventory model involves keeping just enough inventory to meet current demand rather than keeping excess inventory. Reverse logistics is the process of taking back products that are unsellable or have been used. This involves managing the flow of products in both directions between the dental supply chain and dental service providers. Finally, using a dental supplies procurement platform, such as base86, will allow better inventory management, price comparison, and saving on supplies costs.


Conclusion

The dental supply chain is an essential part of the dental industry. It involves the movement of dental supplies from the manufacturer to the dentist, to the patient. With that being said, dental providers must understand its process to overcome its challenges and ensure a good business flow.

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