Two Crowns and the Beginning of an Art Collection

The price placed on services and products corresponds directly to the value that the provider puts on them.

That value relates to ideas of quality, care and attention, service, time and need.


Consumers also evaluate the worth of such services and products in terms of what it means to them personally. When someone says that they understand the value but cannot afford to pay the price, that is very different indeed from them saying that it simply costs too much.

In the former case , they see the value in what it costs ; in the latter , they value the product or service at less than it is being ‘sold’ to them.

Obviously there are situations when a product or service is indeed overcharged. The cost really is significantly more than the value, and no one likes to feel ripped off!

Ultimately the value comes down to the importance that each individual places on dental care and the benefits of obtaining the service…health, beauty, quality of life, versus the disadvantages of not doing so.

Quality dentistry is question of priority and has very different ‘values’ to different people and indeed, to people from different cultures.

Many years ago, just after I qualified as a dentist, I was invited to come to Melbourne, Australia for a year to practice at a private practice. It was an extraordinary experience, and the foundation of a life long love affair with Australia.

One day a young American lady came in for dental work, she needed two crowns.

She was an artist, and although our professions were miles apart, like me, she was at the beginning of her career and living month-to-month, as one does in their early 20’s.

She was pleased to have a solution to her dental problem and told me she would like me to do the crowns for her, but she couldn’t afford them at the time. Of course, I understood.

A few weeks later she turned up at the practice with a big black folder under her arm. How very mysterious!

Out of the folder she pulled a series of drawings, they were beautiful illustrations of human teeth, roots and all. These teeth had an incredibly elegant quality; looking at them, you had such a sense of how astonishing the mouth is as part of the human body. How cleverly it is put together as a functional machine, yet how sculptural the tooth is, an object of true beauty and sophisticated design. I thought these drawings were wonderful.

How did she come to draw them? She said that she was inspired by her visit to me so went to the library, took out a Gray’s Anatomy, the most recognized text book on human anatomy, and had immersed herself in an exploration of  ‘the tooth’.

I had a proposition for the young American lady. Would she consider doing a straight exchange …. her drawings for the 2 crowns ?

Over thirty years later, I still have these drawings and have hung them in every practice I have worked in since. They are now accompanied by many other pieces of art you will see around when you come in for an appointment at Cap City Dental, and demonstrates the simple yet fundamental notion of reciprocity as recognition of value.

She saw these 2 crowns as such a worthwhile investment that she was prepared to go to the time and effort to create something that she could not even guarantee I would be interested in. I recognized that gesture, I was able to give her the crowns she wanted and needed and I own some artwork I really love and appreciate. I will keep them for the rest of my life.

I have not seen the artist since then and don’t even know her name. Who knows, my crowns may still be in her mouth!

How is that for value?