If you’re in the market for a new dentist, it’s hard to know where to look.
What credentials matter? Who works with your insurance plan?
Since your oral health can give a window into other health issues, finding a good dentist, and maintaining a regular check-up schedule needs to be a priority. Keep reading to learn 7 factors you should investigate when choosing a dentist!
1) Look at Experience
Is the dentist you’re thinking about a freshly-minted graduate, or someone closing in on retirement? Are the dentists in the practice all certified?
These are all good questions to ask. It’s okay to trust your gut regarding experience. You might prefer someone who has a few decades of experience, particularly if you have specific oral health issues.
Also, check out whether the dentist is part of the American Dental Association (ADA), the leading professional organization of dentists. The ADA requires that its members take a pledge to offer ethical and fair treatment, so you can rest assured that an ADA dentist puts your health first!
2) When Choosing a Dentist, Ask Around
If you just moved to a new area, crowdsourcing opinions about dentists is not a bad way to start. That way you can see if the same name or two pops up in conversation frequently (and you’ll get to know your neighbors better!).
Ask your neighbors and the local pharmacist for their input. If new to the area, check with a realtor, or ask your previous dentist for recommendations.
Pull out your laptop and visit dentists’ websites to look for testimonials. Dentists with a strong satisfaction record should have professional websites with patient reviews, as well as a comprehensive list of their credentials and services.
3) Don’t Overlook Location and Hours
Even if your work colleagues all point you toward their favorite dentist, if that dentist’s office is a 45-minute drive away, the commute could become a burden. A dentist who is out of the way means you might be reluctant to seek out help for oral health issues — or not go at all.
Live in a snowy climate? Then having a dentist within easy reach will keep you from having to drive in treacherous conditions.
Check out the office hours and compare them against your work hours. Some dentists will have weekend or evening hours to accommodate patients’ work schedules.
4) Education Matters
All dentists must graduate from an accredited dental school with either a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD). These are 4-year programs that provide rigorous training after one has earned an undergraduate degree.
Some schools award DDS degrees while others award DMD degrees, but don’t worry —they both mean the same thing. Additionally, all dentists must pass the National Board Dental Examination in order to gain licensure.
Many dentists pursue additional training in the form of fellowships and workshops. Ask what continuing education opportunities your dentist is doing. You want a dentist who is committed to growing in their profession!
5) Investigate Affordability
It’s critical to find a dentist you can afford, and one that falls within your insurance plan’s network. It’s okay to call offices and ask about pricing to make comparisons, as well as common dental fees that can add up.
You want to size up the range of different dental services offered by the practice, too. Consider whether a dentist can do a variety of procedures or whether they will need to refer you elsewhere. The cost could be more unpredictable if you’re asked to head to another practice for certain oral health matters.
Be aware that location impacts cost. If you’re living in a place with a high cost of living, then you’ll probably have to pay a little more. If you don’t mind a little driving, you may be able to head to a dentist out of town and save some money.
6) Consider Personality and Communication Style
Many people — kids and adults — fear going to the dentist. If you have kids or find yourself feeling butterflies about dental care, it doesn’t hurt to meet the dentist first.
It’s almost like dating — you want to feel good about the person you’ll be spending time with! Some dental offices even offer massage, aromatherapy, television, or other techniques to help put you at ease when you’re at your appointment.
Call the dental office and ask for a consultation. You can learn more about the nuts and bolts of the practice as well as see the dentist’s personality firsthand.
Ask what kind of protocol the office uses for dental emergencies that happen outside of normal hours, and probe a little on how an office visit will look. Will the dentist meet with you during a dental cleaning to provide an update on your dental health?
7) What Technology Does the Practice Use
If you’re considering a dental practice that has been around for a while, it’s a good idea to ask what kinds of new technology and equipment the practice is using. You want to make sure that the practice is staying current with the latest developments in the field.
The downside to advanced technology? It could mean you pay a little more. But if you want the latest care or know your mouth requires a lot of work, an office outfitted with the latest equipment could work to your advantage.
The Bottom Line
When choosing a dentist, spend some time researching and asking trusted individuals from your area for insights. The process may seem intimidating, but your oral health matters. And don’t be afraid to call up an office and ask for a consultation visit.
Weigh experience versus location and be sure to see who is covered under your insurance policy. Check back with us to learn more about how you can move your dental health in the right direction!