Managing Dental Patients Wants vs. Needs

The want vs. need dilemma is real for us all.

A want is a desire or a wish…like that new pair of furry boots I bought last week!  Did I need them?  Not really, but I justified buying them because I really wanted them. Needs, on the other hand, are necessities or obligations.  I need to fill the car with gas, or I will eventually be stranded.


The “O” in my iRONMAN Principles of Communication refers to opportunities.

Dental professionals, does this sound familiar?  A new patient in your practice has several conditions that NEED addressing. He came into your office WANTING to whiten his teeth.

How do we balance our approach to create a positive experience for this patient? What opportunities can we present that will marry his wants with his needs so he accepts treatment and achieves his goals?



Thank you so much for trusting our team to be your family dental partner.  What can we help you with today?  I noticed on your health history you are interested in whitening your teeth.  We offer customized whitening to all our patients so you achieve the best results possible. Let’s proceed with your exam and then we can discuss which option is best to whiten your smile. How does that sound?


Great!  I don’t have any other concerns, but it has been a couple years since I had a dental visit.


Good news, you are a candidate for in-office or take-home whitening and will get a wonderful result with either. Your gum health is fantastic. A regular maintenance therapy appointment is what I prescribe.

Your exam and x-rays disclosed a couple areas of concern: Two cavities between teeth on the UR and a fractured molar on the LL. I’d like to treat the cavities and repair the broken tooth before you whiten your teeth so you do not have any sensitivity with whitening.

We can complete your maintenance therapy, treat the three areas, and start your whitening all in one or two appointments.  Which is more convenient for your schedule?


Sounds like a plan.  I’d like to schedule two appointments. Thanks for asking.  When is your first opening? 


As a dental team, we should strive for a balance between the dental patients’ needs and wants.  Always respecting their goals, while keeping our dental practice mission in check and upholding the accepted dental standard of treatment.

Treatment case acceptance is all about the delivery!  

Copyright 2019 Lisa Copeland.  All rights reserved.

Leave a Reply