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Should Your Practice Move to a Fee-for-Service Dental Model?

June 2024
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The landscape of dental insurance is shifting — and not in your favor. Recent data from the ADA Health Policy Institute shows that a third of dentists are seeing declines in insurance reimbursements.

As a result, many are turning to a Fee-for-Service (FFS) model. This model offers a chance to focus on attracting patients who value premium care and are prepared to invest in their dental health, regardless of insurance.

What is a Fee-for-Service dental practice?

The FFS model represents a straightforward approach to healthcare billing where patients pay directly for services received, rather than navigating through insurance claims and reimbursements.

This model allows dental practices like yours to set fees based on the services provided. It’s a clear, transparent way to operate, giving dentists and patients more control over their dental care decisions.

FFS vs. insurance-based models – an overview

Fee-for-Service Model

  • Patients pay directly for services, which often means higher fees but eliminates the hassle of insurance claims.
  • Without insurance limitations, you can focus on delivering top-notch care that justifies your prices.
  • You get paid immediately, avoiding the delays typical with insurance reimbursements.

Insurance-Based Model

  • Patients might choose you because their out-of-pocket expenses are reduced.
  • This model often relies on a higher patient volume to offset lower per-service payments.
  • Dealing with insurance can mean navigating complex reimbursement processes and delays.

Pros and cons of Fee-For-Service dentistry

There are pros and cons of Fee-For-Service dentistry. FFS can lead to higher patient satisfaction and better margins but requires effective marketing and patient education. On the flip side, the insurance-based model can drive higher patient volumes but often at lower profit margins.


  • Boosts your cash flow: By billing patients directly, you dodge the common cash flow problems caused by delayed or denied insurance reimbursements. This direct payment structure speeds up the revenue cycle, ensuring your practice has the funds when needed.
  • Attracts committed patients: FFS models appeal to patients who value their dental health enough to pay out of pocket. These patients are more likely to agree to necessary treatments and follow through with appointments, giving you a stable base of patients.
  • Helps you provide a better service: Without the limitations set by insurance providers, you can offer services that truly meet the highest standards of care. This not only improves patient satisfaction but also elevates your practice’s reputation.
  • Makes your practice stand out: Adopting FFS sets your practice apart as one that prioritizes patient care over insurance limitations. It signals to the market that your practice is forward-thinking and patient-centered.
  • Brings referred patients to your door: Satisfied patients are more likely to refer friends and family, helping to grow your practice organically. This word-of-mouth marketing is a powerful tool, especially when it comes from those who have experienced firsthand the benefits of patient-focused care.


  • Need for aggressive marketing: Without the steady stream of patients provided by insurance networks, FFS practices must invest more in marketing to attract new patients. This often involves substantial spending on digital marketing, local advertising, and community engagement initiatives.
  • Patient retention challenges: Patients paying out-of-pocket may be more cost-conscious and price-sensitive. Meanwhile, competing with practices that accept insurance can be tough, especially if patients perceive insurance-based services as more affordable or convenient.
  • Robust staff training: Staff members need to be well-trained in patient communication, financial discussions, and customer service to effectively support the FFS model. Continuous training and development are essential to maintain high standards.
  • Economic Sensitivity: FFS practices may be more vulnerable to economic downturns, as patients may delay or forego dental care when their disposable income decreases.

4 key strategies for FFS dental practices

Without the cushion of insurance, FFS practices must step up their game. There’s no hidden secret or quick fix. The key to making your FFS practice irresistible lies in mastering and amplifying the foundational marketing principles you already know. Elevate your strategies, refine your approach, and ensure every effort is perfectly aligned to stand out and thrive.

1. Showcase what sets you apart

FFS practices lean heavily into their unique value propositions. Whether that’s a spa-like atmosphere or the latest technology, their messaging sells their value and is oh-so convincing. Forget generic logos and colors. FFS practices invest in branding that grabs you, tells a story, and sticks with you.

Why is this so important? It makes a patient feel they’re choosing a premier experience.

2. Leverage patient success stories

Real testimonials, engaging videos, engaging social media content, and detailed case studies are powerful. They visually demonstrate the superior care and results you offer, going beyond mere claims to show tangible benefits.

3. Simplify access to treatment

While some patients are willing to pay for premium services, upfront costs can be a barrier. Partner with medical financing companies like CareCredit to help patients manage payments or develop an in-house membership plan. This not only eases patients’ financial burdens but can also provide additional revenue for your practice.

4. Optimize your front desk team

Before ramping up marketing efforts, ensure your internal processes are seamless. Your front desk team should never miss a call. Every patient inquiry is a chance to book a new patient. Implement scripts and train your staff thoroughly to handle questions and convert calls into appointments effectively.

Can you spot the FFS dental practice?

Take a look at the homepages of these two different dental practices. One operates on a Fee-for-Service model, and the other is an in-network practice accepting insurance.

Can you tell which is which just by looking at their homepages?

You got it? Here are some clues:

  • The insurance-model practice focuses heavily on affordability, insurance options, and a variety of dental services aimed at a wide range of patients. The emphasis is on accessibility and insurance compatibility, catering to patients looking for cost-effective treatment options within their insurance network. Their website is nice, but generic.
  • The FFS practice highlights modern dental technology, focuses on personalized care, and has a membership club that helps patients manage treatment costs. They emphasize high-quality dentistry, showcasing patient testimonials and before/after pictures to help patients feel confident and motivated to invest in their dental care. Their website and branding are modern, unique, and polished.

By focusing on personalized care, using modern technology, and providing membership options, Legacy Smiles of Southern Arizona directly addresses the preferences of patients who seek value beyond insurance.

Fee-for-service dental marketing — online strategies that work

Without the cushion of insurance, FFS practices need to work a little harder. There’s no magic bullet that you’ve never heard of before. The key to making your FFS practice irresistible? Take the foundational marketing principles you’re familiar with and elevate them!

  • Modern website and branding: Craft a visually appealing, user-friendly website that reflects the high standard of care your FFS practice offers. Your online presence should be as impeccable and professional as your services, with a brand identity that resonates with your target demographic. This improves patient trust and reinforces your practice’s premium reputation.
  • SEO for precision targeting: Optimize your website with keywords that potential patients are likely to use when searching for high-quality dental services. Focus on local SEO tactics to capture your community-based market.
  • Effective paid campaigns: Develop targeted ad campaigns on platforms like Google and Facebook. These should specifically highlight the unique advantages of your FFS offerings, using demographic data to reach the right audience.
  • Engaging through social media: Regularly post engaging content showcasing real patient stories and your practice’s personalized care. Use these platforms to interact directly with followers, answer questions, and schedule consultations.

Knowing your target patient

Through all your marketing efforts, keep focused on your ideal patient — those who value and seek premium, out-of-pocket dental care. When you align your marketing strategies with their needs, every dollar you spend is more likely to attract and retain these high-value patients.

Stop paying for marketing that doesn’t work

help your dso take the next step :delmain

At :Delmain, we specialize in turning website visitors into valuable new patients, delivering marketing services tailored to your practice needs. Our goal? Whether you’re an insurance-based or FFS practice, we’re here to help you stop paying for marketing that doesn’t work and start achieving real, tangible results that supercharge practice revenue.

Ready to get started? Sign up for a FREE New Patient Roadmap today. We’ll help you pinpoint your target patient and craft a personalized plan to draw them directly to you.

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