One of the big challenges we can face with our patients is the fact that we are not providing a commodity in dentistry. As we all know, there is a lot of skill that goes into what we do, and all dentistry is not created equal. Sure, some will and do “get” this, yet for others this is not obvious. It becomes our responsibility to make evident that we are providing a higher level of dental care, especially if we are to set ourselves apart from “average” care.

In thinking about this, it can be helpful to think of analogies. Let’s take for example a true commodity. This would be something like an ice chest that you could purchase from multiple places at several different prices. While the buying experience might be a little different at the different stores, once you got past that you would have the same “thing” once the purchase was complete – no matter where you bought the item. In thinking about items like this, price is often a big driver for folks when they are deciding where they will buy said item. 

Now let’s think about things that are not commodities. A great example I can think of is a car wash or detail. Are they all equal? Not really, at least not if you care passionately about your vehicle.

This is much like dental care. For example, if you have a high-level detail or wash done at a place like this:

high-level auto care
A high-level of auto washing and detailing.

… it is way different than a wash or detail here:

car care
Not quite as high of a level of auto washing and detailing.

In fact, you could not even get the same outcome at the former as at the latter or vice-versa.  Additionally, you would expect the costs for services at the different places to be different.

A somewhat similar example can be made with teeth. Is one level of service right and the other wrong? Technically no, but if you expect one level and get the other, chances are there could be a problem. Take for example these pictures below. They are from the same mouth, but I think we can agree different outcomes were achieved.

dental care figure 1
One level of dental care.
dental care figure 4
Another level of dental care.

Might some patients accept either outcome? Obviously the answer is yes, but it is equally safe to say many would not. While it would be really easy to satisfy the patient who would be equally happy with either outcome, I think it is safe to say if you, as a dentist, strive to deliver the higher-level outcome, it is way more satisfying to treat the patient who wants and expects what we would consider the better outcome. The latter type of patient will likely appreciate our efforts more than the patient who would be satisfied with either outcome. That being said, I understand that not all patients want or even feel it necessary to achieve these “higher-level” outcomes, and that is perfectly fine.

In closing, while we obviously want to treat folks who appreciate our efforts and differences in the care we deliver, it is important to remember that we may need to educate our patients on the fact that all dentistry is not the same and there are different levels of care. Never forget that some of the things you may be doing as your “normal” may in fact be extraordinary and different than other offices. It never hurts to explain your efforts on your patients’ behalf and celebrate the outcomes you achieve for them as this helps them appreciate and realize that their fantastic final outcome did not happen “by chance.” It was in fact deliberate excellence.


Commenter's Profile Image John C.
July 13th, 2016
By the way it is important to note that the car is on a lift so it's at eye level when they work on it and you will also notice lights on the top of the posts to assure they have optimal lighting...just like with our work the right tools, equipment, and training make a difference!
Commenter's Profile Image Benjamin R.
September 28th, 2017
Great insights!