Objectives: Current UK and US economic conditions have re-focussed attention on the need to deliver dental care with limited finance and resources. This raises hard questions determining which services will be offered and what they should achieve to satisfy public demands and needs. We consider impending dental health reforms in the US and UK within the context of contemporary experiences to identify issues and delivery goals for the two nations. Background: The paper provides a brief history and background of the development of social dental care models in the UK and US, highlighting some differences in state-funded delivery of dental care. Shifting Demand: From the 1950s, demand for dental treatment has increased and acquired a more complex composition growing from predominantly surgical and restorative treatment to encompass preventive care and cosmetic services. Prioritising care according to need: Despite improvements in general health and technology, inequalities in access and utilisation of dental care are still experienced, primarily by groups with low socio-economic status. Delivery: balancing resources, demand and need: In developing and delivering reform agendas, much can be learned from previous policy interventions. Pressures of cost, coverage, and capacity, besides demand versus need must be carefully considered and balanced to deliver quality service and value for users and taxpayers. Conclusions: Ethical and moral consideration should be given to making services needs-driven to address high treatment requirements rather than the high care demands of the worried well. This challenge brings the additional political pressure of convincing many of the voters (and subsequent complainers) that their demands may be less important than the needs of others. © BASCD 2012.