These are two words that come up a lot when we talk about dental care, so it's worth examining the psychology behind them.

A want is something that would be nice to have, something that goes on a wish list, but it doesn't inspire any real urgent feelings. A need is something you simply must have to feel complete. It's something you prioritize, either consciously or unconsciously. And of course, one person's need is another person's want (or another person's don't-want-at-all). For some people, ESPN feels almost as vital as air to their existence and they gladly pay for this “necessity;" others can take it or leave it. In other words, need is in the eye of the beholder.

So your challenge is to make patients behold dentistry in the right way. Many of them are willing to accept the hygiene care that insurance covers as a need. Everything else goes onto that list of wants that they'll get to when they have the money. Except the money seems to always be eaten up by all their other needs.

So that means you have to start with the premise that, in their eyes, almost everything you do is a choice – everything is a want. And that means you have to continually use your best relationship-building and value creation skills to nudge them upwards on the scale. The secret is to get people to feel that they NEED to have the treatment that right now is just a want. Because when they do, they'll do anything to get it.