50 Shades of Grey (Market)

If you read any of the 50 Shades books, I am sure this title got your attention. So now that I have it, I want to respectfully educate you on Grey Market dental supplies, and why you should avoid it.

So what is “Grey Market” anyway?

The term gray market generally refers to products that are sold outside the established distribution chain, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“If the gray market version is not the legally marketed version, it may not meet U.S. safety and effectiveness standards. It may lack essential information in labeling or the labeling may not even be in English,” according to the FDA. “A significant concern is that products available on the gray market may be defective products that have been diverted from planned destruction or products that may have been recalled.” (ADA NEWS)

I’ll put it to you this way. I would never refer a friend, family member, or colleague to a dentist knowing that they purchase gray market products. Have you ever heard the saying, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is”? This very much applies to dental supplies and grey market products.

It blows my mind that some of my own customers skimp where it matters most: Quality and Safety.

I can assure you that the few bucks you save on dental supplies will be pennies in comparison to a potential law suit that could ensue. You are on your own from the manufacturers should you purchase their products from an unauthorized distributor.

Major manufacturers such as 3M, Dentsply, and Kerr are dedicated to shutting down Gray Market distributers. It is their duty to distribute quality products, because ultimately buying though an authorized distributer is better for your patients.

Instead of trying to save money, focus your time on how you can make money. Work with you Henry Schein rep on ways to increase revenue and productivity. Use Schein’s Practice Analysis tool to uncover opportunity in your hygiene, radiography, and perio departments.


Here are 10 ways to save money and maximize your supply spend:

1. Set and communicate your monthly budget with your team
2. Purchase as many “Schein brand” items as possible. Excellent quality, and less expensive
3. Keep your options limited: Stick to the same brands, colors, flavors, etc.
4. Maximize your earned free goods from manufacturers. Think, buy 3 get 1 free
5. Use 1 supply partner (such as Schein) vs. 50 different companies. Costs go down when you streamline
6. Avoid finance charges. Pay your bills on time.
7. Have one person, and only one person in charge of ordering (although other team members should be cross-trained on how to place orders)
8. Maximize on show specials such as the Hinman, ADA, CDA and specialty meetings.
9. Have an effective inventory management system in place such as the “Tag System”
10. It pays to be loyal. Building a relationship with your rep and giving them a significant amount of business will allow them to help you out when you need it in most. When your office orders enough with one company, they will make sure to work with you a little more to get you specials on price, help you with a loaner when a piece of equipment goes down, and many other things.

Do you think Christian Grey (or Dr. Gordon Christensen), would waste his time on anything less than the best? I don’t think so. So why should you?


Dentists who have questions about specific products or companies should contact the FDA at 1-800-638-2041 or dsmica@fda.hhs.gov.

If you would like help setting up an inventory control system, please visit me at www.dentalkate.com

Kate Shanahan

Raleigh, NC

Henry Schein Dental



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