How to build a successful dental company from an idea? Dr. David Epstein DDS and Jason Epstein on Creating and Developing Wonderful Dental
In this vendor spotlight blog post, Jillian sits down with Dr. David Epstein and Jason Epstein to explore the exciting history behind Wonderful Dental as a successful dental company. From pediatric dentistry to the founding of this family business, this conversation covers a wide range of fascinating topics and highlights the impact of Dr. David’s legacy on the dental industry. The journey of Wonderful Dental is truly inspiring and sets the stage for future advancements in the field. You can listen to the conversation on our podcast page: https://www.zensupplies.com/zenone-podcast/ or read the transcript below.
Jillian: I was reading about the background and history of Wonderful Dental but would like to know more about how it started and turned into a successful dental company.
Dr. David Epstein: In 2016, after 50 years of practicing pediatric dentistry and 18 years of teaching at the University of Connecticut, I retired. I looked at the future and one of the things I noticed was the negative reaction most kids had to the prophy paste or fluoride varnish used in dentistry. I wanted to create a better product that was better tasting, hypoallergenic and met my requirements for a good preventive product. I worked with chemists to develop flavors and we found a way to incorporate synthetic flavoring to eliminate allergens and make the product taste good. I tested everything on my six grandsons, who are very critical, and when they gave a thumbs up, those were the flavors we went with.
I also realized that the cost of doing business in the dental supply industry was very high. So, we started an e-commerce company to minimize overhead costs and save offices money. Joseph helped with marketing and increased sales by 800% in the first six months. Jason joined the company later to handle the technical aspect and make the company a well-oiled functioning entity.
At 81 years old, my role in the company is to provide information and create good relationships with our offices. I have met so many nice dentists and pediatric dentists from all over the country, which has been wonderful. The input from Joseph and Jason has made this company successful. They are the nuts and bolts behind the scenes, making everything happen and growing the company.
Jason: Well, when we first started, we were operating from a small warehouse located in Connecticut, close to Dr. Epstein’s residence. As the company grew, we realized we needed a more technologically advanced warehouse that could receive orders electronically and provide us with real-time visibility. So, we moved to a warehouse in Brooklyn. Today, we have around 40 to 50 warehouses, with our two main locations being in Pennsylvania and Texas. Our goal for this year is to open a third warehouse in California, but we need to ensure we have enough product in our supply chain to fully stock it before the end of the year.
Jillian: With supplies being limited due to Covid, I feel like manufacturers are still trying to catch up. Have you guys faced any challenges with getting the supplies needed to make your product? I know your products don’t have a lot of additives, but I imagine the flavors that make them taste so good for kids might not be easy to get in stock.
Jason: Yeah, we’re lucky that most dental supplies use bad flavors, but we use good ones and there’s plenty of those available. Flavor hasn’t been our challenge, but we’ve faced challenges with lid stock, forming web, and other things. We work closely with our suppliers to give them visibility to our dental inventory demand and try to get ahead of it as much as possible. But it has impacted us a few times over the year where we’ve run low in stock on certain flavors. But we hope to continue to get ample supply to service all the offices we’ve grown significantly over the last few years. We’re just trying to get ahead of the forecast.
Jillian: Did you start off with just prophy paste, or did you always offer both prophy paste and fluoride? How did you expand your product offerings and how it helped you become a successful dental company?
Dr. David Epstein: Actually, our successful dental company started with varnish. The original varnishes were terrible tasting and unattractive. I switched to varnish in my office after studies showed that it was more effective. We switched to a fluoride varnish that was dark amber in color and almost unpalatable in taste. After using it, parents would ask why their child’s teeth were yellow after just getting them cleaned. We worked to improve the flavor of the varnish by masking the taste of the rosin and alcohol. We also improved the prophy paste by eliminating the titanium dioxide that made the paste super sticky and difficult to rinse off. We also removed the fluoride from the prophy paste as it had no significant reduction in decay. Our focus is on eliminating allergens and making products that are patient and office friendly, even if they are not the most visually appealing.
Jason: Also, the key to a successful dental practice is time management, and this is especially important in pediatric practices where children may resist getting fluoride treatments or teeth polishing. Good flavors make these procedures more efficient and save time. Not only do children enjoy these flavors, but they also have other benefits, such as reducing the risk of clogging up the office’s plumbing. It is important to advise dental offices to avoid using fluoride varnish, as it can harm the plumbing. Instead, it is recommended that children spit the varnish into a cup and dispose of it in the trash. Over the course of 50 years of practice, the speaker has gained valuable knowledge and ideas that can make things easier for dental offices and help them to be successful.
Jillian: I was going to ask, what advice do you have for making the dental experience positive for young children, especially in pediatrics? I know some adults are scared of going to the dentist due to negative experiences they had as kids.
Dr. David Epstein: This is what inspired me to become a pediatric dentist over 50 years ago. When I was in dental school, I wasn’t a fan of going to the dentist and when I walked into the Children’s Dental Clinic for the first time, I was scared. I didn’t have much experience with children and I was single with no children of my own. But for some reason, kids liked me, and by the end of my senior year, my classmates were sending me difficult kids to treat. It just seemed to click, and I fell in love with pediatric dentistry. I went on to teach at the University of Connecticut for 18 years, but when I retired at 75, I felt it was not appropriate to be in the clinic teaching kids. However, I discovered the internet was a wonderful opportunity to continue teaching and communicating with dentists.
Jillian: Could you have ever imagined that wonderful would become what it is today when you first started?
Dr. David Epstein: Not in my wildest dreams could I have ever imagined the need for these kinds of products and the reach I would have with so many offices. I have to credit Joseph for his marketing efforts, as it has touched so many people and created a warm and friendly feeling toward wonderful. The feedback we have received has been fantastic, and it has all been due to our exceptional marketing program. As the business grew, I saw the logistics were beyond my abilities or Joseph’s, and that’s where Jason filled the gap, completing the triangle and making the company function well.
Jillian: Your company has received some amazing reviews and what’s great is that you offer samples. I know a lot of companies do this, especially with products like Prophy Paste and Varnish. What samples do you have available?”
Dr. David Epstein: We offer a sample packet of all of our products on request. Providing samples is a necessary and effective part of our promotion, but it can be quite costly. We try to do it on a selective basis. When offices request samples, we are happy to send them out. As we have partnered with large groups such as Zen, we offer samples to all members of that group. We rely on Zen to connect us with offices and are always happy to send out samples.
Jillian: One of the goals when starting the company was to make products at a cost that was affordable for dental offices. How do you analyze pricing and ensure that it is optimal and affordable?
Dr. David Epstein: It was a real epiphany for us when we realized we could make all these products and save offices money as a successful dental company. We realized we could eliminate major expenses such as advertising in dental journals and reduce the cost of attending meetings and having booths. Once we found out we could reach offices through an e-commerce company, we could pass those savings on to them. We also reduced our packaging cost, which lowered the price of our prophy paste. Offices were surprised that a dental company actually lowered the price of something. I’ve been practicing for 50 years and I’ve never seen that happen before. Some companies would push offices to spend more money by offering promotions, but that never sat right with me. Our prices are fair and reasonable, and I think offices appreciate that.
Jillian: Is there anything you are particularly excited about for Wonderful, for this year 2023? Are there any forecasts or things you’re looking forward to continue being a successful dental company?
Dr. David Epstein: I am excited about continuing to build relationships with dental offices. Our goal is not just to be a dental supply vendor, but to create a strong bond with offices so that they feel free to contact us with questions. As for new products, we’re considering adding more flavors in the future. Our most popular flavor has been marshmallow, and recently, s’mores flavor varnish has received great feedback. We also have a unique prophy paste product for adults, which has been well received.
Jason: Historically, marshmallow has been the most popular flavor for paste and varnish. Our s’mores flavor varnish has been a hit. Our adult line of prophy paste, which is 20% coarser than medium, has also taken off as it is more efficient at removing stains while still polishing the enamel.
Dr. David Epstein: I have a background in pediatric dentistry and have seen a lot of changes over the years. I learned that coarse paste damaged the enamel, but medium pace was not strong enough to remove stains. That’s why we created the adult line of prophy paste, which is 80% less coarse than coarse paste. I believe in always improving and finding better ways to do things. A lot of what I offer to dental offices is based on my personal experiences and lessons learned over the years.
Jillian: Is there anything else you would like to add as far as advice you would like to give dental offices in regards to saving on dental supplies?
Jason: Zen offers great products that save money for dental offices. We are grateful to be a part of Zen as it reaches a wider audience. My advice to dental offices would be to take advantage of buying directly and not just rely on dental supply house catalogs. Investigate better products at better prices through e-commerce companies like Zen.
Dr. David Epstein: My advice for a successful dental company would be to consider the quality of products while looking for cost savings. At Zen, we focus on providing the highest quality products and constantly making improvements. In my practice, I always sought the best products for my patients and when starting the company, this was a top priority. We never wanted to compromise the quality of our products for cost savings. The cost savings turned out to be a secondary benefit. Our philosophy has always been to provide the best products.
Jillian: Thank you for joining me today and for being partners of Zen. Your company brings more than just great products; it brings a positive experience for patients with your flavors. It may seem small, but it makes a big difference in the dental experience. Thank you!