Are You A Dentist Or A Salesman?

I often hear dentists say to me:

“I’m a Dentist. Not a Sales Person.”

Which is an interesting thing to say.

When you are owning and running a Dental Office.

Or working in a Dental Office that has an owner.

Because unless you are a charity, and you are giving your dentistry away, you are involved in an economic transaction or exchange.

You’re involved in an exchange of a good, or service, for a financial value.

What is sales?

Some definitions, according to Wikipedia:

A sale is the exchange of a commodity or money as the price of a good or a service.

A person who sells, or transacts goods or service on behalf of a business owner is still known as a salesman

A person expressing an interest in acquiring the offered item of value is referred to as a potential buyer, prospective customer or prospect. 

Buying and selling are understood to be two sides of the same “coin” or transaction. 

Both seller and buyer engage in a process of negotiation to consummate the exchange of values.

For a business to survive, it needs to make sales that generate enough money to be more than its expenses and costs.

A dental business needs to have enough customers paying enough money that is collectively greater in total than the sum costs of running that business.


Dentistry is therefore, sales.

Not charity.

And we are involved in the process of selling.

The three types of transactions

To me there are only three types of transactions:


Money or a service or a good is transacted without any expectation of receiving something tangible in return.


The exchange of a good or a service for the receipt of either money or a good or a service of agreed value.

This is a normal everyday transaction.

You want a loaf of bread? You exchange a dollar value for that product.

You perform labour? You receive either a dollar value or goods or favour in exchange for that labour.



A penalty is a transaction where one person is forced to surrender their money against their will.

This can be in the form of a fine, or a taxation.

By law, one person must pass their money to another person or organisation, without receiving a direct benefit.


Dentistry is sales.

Not charity.

And we are, by definition, involved in the process of selling.

The types of Dental Sales:

1. Needs based sales.

This is where the customer has pain, or discomfort, that needs to be dealt with.

Or they have something broken, that is not causing discomfort, that needs repair or restoration.

2. Benefit based sales.

This is where the customer has no pain or discomfort. Nor do they have anything broken.

This is where treatment is proposed for prevention of a problem, or for improvement of an appearance.

It is similar to purchasing new tyres to prevent your car having an accident on the worn tyres it has.

It is buying pest control, so termites do not eat your house down.

3. Pleasure based sales.

This is where the customer purchases a dental product or process for the emotional benefit they receive from owning that improvement.

This is cosmetic dentistry. It is whitening.

It is treatment unrelated to a mechanical or restorative need.

It is where you purchase a new coat of paint for the inside of your house to give the appearance a “lift”. The house does not need the paint for any other reason other than it will look better with the new paint.


Needs based dentistry

If you provide your dentistry by servicing from one disaster to another, then you are purely a needs based dentist.

And that’s your choice.

You are like a plumber who repairs blocked drains and broken guttering.

You are mending problems.

You are not preventing problems or solving future problems before they occur.

You are mending, and not replacing.

Benefit based dentistry

If you are solving future problems before they occur, you are preventing problems and so you are providing dentistry on a benefit-based programme.

“If we restore these teeth with crowns or inlays they will not fall apart, and nor are they likely to crack…”

“If we remove this decay while it is small then there is less likelihood of it spreading and reaching the nerve in your tooth…”

This is the way that I practiced dentistry.

I treated for future benefit.

I was not a cosmetic dentist.

I treated for prevention of serious consequences.

My obligation was to ensure that the patient went ahead with the transaction, for their own benefit.

If they did not go ahead, then I had let that patient down because they were leaving with a liability that I had not fully explained to them.

I had not given them a rock solid understanding of the dire consequences of inaction, delay and ignoring.

I had let them down.

It was as if I had allowed my wife to drive around with my children in a car with well worn down tyres.

If I patched a tooth rather than fixed it properly, it was as if I’d repaired a hole in my neighbour’s roof with newspaper rather than with tiles.

Was I selling? 

Who needs teeth anyway?

After all, your patients could buy a blender?

Blenders are cheaper.

Blenders are a little clumsy and awkward when you go out to dinner at a restaurant….

My obligation to my patients was that they accepted and received the treatment that was best for them and their teeth.

Not second best.

If they chose anything other than best then I had let them down.

I’d rather my family drove around on new tyres.

Not worn tyres.

And not re-treads either…


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