Whether you’re a busy parent, an image-conscious executive, or a senior citizen with special needs, finding a good dentist can be a struggle. Where do you start? You could open the phone book or Google dentists in your city. But then what?
Here are 10 tips to help you make an informed and wise decision. And remember, you’re going to trust your new dentist with your health and your image – and maybe your loved ones. Be smart!
Also, keep in mind that everyone has different needs, priorities, and personalities. For instance, if you want a good family dentist, and you aren’t planning on getting veneers anytime soon, you’ll want to find a general dentist who’s good with kids – not an adult cosmetic dentist.
1. Testimonials & portfolio
Consider your needs. Then, when you call the office, ask if the doctor has a website with testimonials and before-and-after photos. In some states, Texas for example, testimonials aren’t allowed. However, you can visit www.DrOogle.com or www.Yelp.com and research the doctor’s reviews. In regards to the photos, do you see flaws in the “after” pictures? Are you looking for cosmetic dentistry? Does the doctor’s portfolio show complex restorative patients? Is that what you’re looking for?
2. History & experience
Again, consider your needs. On the dental practice’s website or brochure, you should find a biography about the dentist(s) and history of the practice. Are you comfortable with the dentist’s expertise and training? Is the practice brand new or has it been in your area for a long time? What does this mean to you?
Think about what you want from your dentist. If you need a general dentist for checkups and cleanings, you may want to find a practice that has digital radiography for X-rays with up to 80% less radiation. If you need gum disease therapy, you might look for a dentist who uses a soft tissue laser for debridement. Looking to brighten your smile? Google Zoom! and your city. Want implants? A dentist with an iCAT or iTero for cone beam imaging might be right for you.
Again, what do you and your family need? If you know that you’ll need gum surgery or implants, your kids will need wisdom tooth removal and orthodontics, and your husband wants to improve his image, find a dentist who offers those procedures. Many dentists refer people to specialists for extractions, root canals, implant surgery, gum surgery, orthodontics, and oral surgery. Furthermore, since any general dentist can claim to be a “cosmetic dentist” without certification, it’s important to do your homework before agreeing to major esthetic procedures like porcelain veneers.
Statistics show that 20-50% of Americans avoid the dentist – many because of dental phobia, stress, anxiety, or fear. If you’re afraid; if you don’t respond well to numbing shots; if you need extensive dental work completed, interview your potential dentist about sedation options. Not all dentists offer nitrous oxide (laughing gas) or anxiolysis (oral sedatives). Even fewer offer nitrous plus oral sedatives – and even fewer than that offer IV sedation. However, sedation isn’t the end all for comfort. With The Wand and STA, local anesthetic can be administered continually throughout a procedure. Furthermore, spa amenities, like video goggles, paraffin hand wax, and massage therapy can make you feel pretty good at the dentist’s office. Some dentists now offer hypnotherapy, as well.
Location, location, location – and hours. Is the dental practice in question conveniently located for you and your family? Are the hours compatible with your schedule? If you need complex dental work, will the doctor schedule your procedure for Saturday?
While insurance is a benefit, dental insurance doesn’t cover much. Don’t be too concerned if your dentist isn’t in network with your provider. Finding a great dentist is much more important than spending an extra $20 bucks for a cleaning. Most dental practices accept personal checks, major credit cards, and cash payments. For complex dental work or cosmetic smile makeovers, you might find out if the dentist works with a third party financing company, like CareCredit or Springstone Financial. These companies offer low- and no-interest payment plans to qualified applicants.
8. Age & compatibility
In many cases, a dentist’s patient base has a median age near the dentist’s age. This means, young dentists tend to cater to young patients and older dentists attract an older clientele. However, the age factor may be coincidence and should not be a major factor in your choice. You do, however, need to be compatible with your dentist. When you make that initial call, ask if you can drop by to meet the dentist and tour the facility. A first impression can say a lot.
On your tour, determine whether you feel like the office and operatories are clean. While dentists must adhere to Center for Disease Control regulations, you need to feel safe and secure in your dentist’s office. Feel free to ask questions about sterilization and disease control procedures.
10. Front office experience
How did the receptionist answer the phone? When you asked about insurance, what was her response? Did she offer to send you a new patient packet or direct you to the dentist’s website? In person, were the front office team members smiling and friendly? Did they communicate well and make you feel welcome? The dentist works on your mouth, but you have to work with his front office team. If you don’t feel respected and appreciated, it may not be the right practice for you.