top of page

The 3 Patient Needs

One of my former professors at Stony Brook, Dr. Barry Waldman, has a way with words.  He was the first lecturer to impress upon me the importance of effective communication with patients.  Here’s one of his classics:

Patients don’t care what you do in their mouths unless it hurts, turns green, or falls out.

So.  Damn. True.

Patients don’t care that you spent an extra five minutes carving tertiary anatomy into their Class II on tooth # 15.  Seriously, they don’t care.

Now the good Dr. Waldman and I are not suggesting that dentists should lower the quality of their care.  Far from it!  Do the greatest work you can and be the most skilled dentist you can be.  But there’s a lot more to being a dentist than being a tooth carpenter.  There’s a whole living human being attached to that maxillary second molar.  We treat patients, not teeth.

Here are the three basic patient needs:

3 patient needs

It is expected that your care won’t hurt (aside from normal post-op discomfort), that it functions correctly (doesn’t fall out), and that it looks pretty.  Actually, looking pretty isn’t even that much of a concern for teeth that aren’t in the esthetic zone, but you get the idea.  So these are the three basic expectations from a patient.

If you want to WOW patients and have them get excited about recommending their friends and family to you, you’re not going to get there by just giving a pain-free experience.  That’s a basic expectation.  The WOW comes from things like emotional connections, charisma, enthusiasm, a beautiful office, and a high level of customer service from your entire team.  Being a great tooth carpenter will help you meet the three basic patient needs, but being a great dental professional will help you win over your patients hearts.


bottom of page