Is Dentistry a product or a service?

Why is that an important question?

People’s perceptions of the profession and what it provides have a profound effect on what they should expect from a dentist and how they should value the care and treatment they do receive.

Is Dentistry a product or a service?
Is Dentistry a product or a service?

A ‘product’ is defined as an ‘article or substance that is manufactured for sale’. It is often considered synonymous with a ‘commodity’, but is actually different. The latter is a’ raw material that can be bought and sold’.

A service is defined as the ‘action of helping or doing work for someone’ … very different!

Traditionally Dentistry, like Medicine and indeed all the professions (Law, Accountancy, Architecture, etc.) have been viewed as services to people and or society.  As such they attracted respect, trust and kudos, albeit sometimes ‘misplaced’.

In today’s changing world, has the public’s view changed? Using Dentistry as an example and indeed, similarly in Medicine, one might think so.

Is Dentistry now viewed as the provision of products?

When you pay for dentistry, do you think that you are purchasing a product: a composite or amalgam filling, a porcelain or gold crown, a titanium implant or an x-ray? Do you think you are purchasing a commodity: the dentist inserting the filling, fitting the crown, placing the implant, taking the x-ray?

If you do think either of the above, then you may consider that:

  • There isn’t much difference between one dentist and another. After all they all have a ‘University degree’.
  • That something placed in the mouth should cost comparatively the same whoever places it.
  • Dentists fees should be ‘competitive’ (with each other) and to a certain extent it would make sense to have treatment done by someone who charges ‘less’.

    Choosing Cars like choosing Dentists?
    Choosing Cars like choosing Dentists?
  • You would expect to pay more for a product which is made of a better material (commodity), offered by the same dentist.
  • You might reasonably expect to pay a little more if the sales environment is more ‘upmarket’. For example you would expect to pay more for a second hand car from a dealership than from a used car salesman.

Perhaps it is worthwhile to re-consider that it may serve you best to view Dentistry, indeed, as a service?
As such you should expect:

  • There to be big differences between different practitioners and those differences will affect many aspects of the health, longevity, function and aesthetics of your teeth.
  • As a service it’s not about what materials are used or even what they are made of. It’s about when, why and how they are used in your mouth. Nowadays, all materials sold to dentists or dental technicians have to pass certain very stringent quality standards. One should use different materials for different purposes.
  • Dentists are very dependent on dental technicians. As with dentists, there are equally very big differences between different technicians and how they produce their dental restorations for the dentist to use. Imagine a really ‘good’ dentist using a very cheap’ technician… how would you feel about that?
  • So the training, experience, expertise of the dental professional would contribute to the ‘quality’ of the service … but what about other aspects, such as time taken not just for the procedures but in addressing the patient’s emotional aspects (regarding dental treatment)? Think about the treatment you get from a dentist who sees eight patients a day as compared to the one that has to see twenty, thirty or even forty?
  • Think about the time it should take to carry out a really thorough diagnosis, to listen to your previous dental experiences, your needs and perhaps fears and anxieties, to prepare a well thought out report, treatment plan with options and priorities.

Do these constitute a good service, one that you might want for yourself and your family? They certainly do not constitute the’ provision of goods, products or commodities’.

My suggestion is to view your dentist as a service provider; then evaluate and indeed value him or her on that basis. You may start off paying more, but in the end you will get a far better result on every level and far higher value for the time, energy, emotion and money you have paid.

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