How to Find a Good Dentist

Dental care is essential to a healthy lifestyle. 



The relationship between dentist and patient can be a long-term relationship, but if you’ve moved, switched jobs, or don’t like your current dental care professional, the search for a new one can be taxing.




You want to build a long-term relationship with a dentist. It is worth the time and effort to find someone who will be with you and your family. The benefits of a quality dentist are more than just convenience, it’s health.


Here are some tips to getting the best dental care for you and your family:

Considerations for picking a dentist


Whether you live in an area with hundreds of qualified dental care professionals or are in a dental desert, here are things to consider before choosing:

Reviews:

  • Talk to friends, family, and coworkers about their dentist
  • Yelp, google, and Facebook reviews

Services:

  • X-rays, cleanings, fillings, extractions, whitening, implants etc.

Coverage:

  • Dental insurance in/out of network
  • Medicare/Medicaid
  • Payment plans

Convenience:

  • Location of practice compared to your home/work
  • Office hours
  • Services/specialties available that you may need
  • Emergency hours/fees
  • Policies (missed appointments, late fees, dentist cancellation, etc.)

Staff:

  • Number of Dentists, Hygienists, Assistants, and their experience
  • Relationships with other specialties
  • Certifications and accreditation

First Appointment with a new dentist

  • Before your first appointment
  • During your first appointment
  • Between appointments

 

Reviews

When you’re looking for a new restaurant to try, book to read, or movies to watch, you look at reviews.

Services

X-rays, cleanings, fillings, extractions, whitening, implants, etc. While specialized procedures may require to be referred to another dental professional, you do want to select a practice with a wide array of in-house capabilities: a) they know you and your history; b) they may be able to combine steps, thereby saving you multiple trips.


Know your coverage


Whether you are insured through work, public health, private insurance, or not at all, knowing your insurance coverage is key.


If you are like the approximately 63 million Americans who do not have dental insurance coverage, you should still visit a dentist for regular cleanings.


When booking an appointment, ask if they have payment plans available for uninsured. The longer a dental issue is left untreated, the more painful it becomes and the more expensive the treatment will be. A cleaning is cheaper than a filling, a filling cheaper than a crown, a crown cheaper than a root canal, and a root canal cheaper than an implant.


Most dental insurance plans cover preventative treatments 100%. This means your cleanings every 6 months won’t cost you a penny out of pocket and will help save you from expensive treatments down the road.


Insurance plans will often divide coverage between in and out of network providers. In network means the insurance company and the dentist have negotiated a discount for the services. If you are able, finding an in-network dentist will save you money.


If you are in a Dental Care Desert, finding an in-network provider may be difficult. But this should not stop you from seeking dental care. If this is your situation, let the dentist know. Often their team will work with you to ease some of the burden of being out of network. (Be it explaining how to file claims, creating a payment plan for services, or other options.)


It is fair to assume that your dentist wants you to have healthy teeth. While he/she does have to run a business, dentists want you to have a healthy smile and will work with you so you can afford it.



Find ADA member dentists in your area


The American Dental Association has requirements of their member dentists for patient protection. An ADA member dentist should understand patients’ rights, staying current with dental advancements, providing quality care, and anti-discrimination. That is not to say non-ADA dentists don’t have those values, but the ADA has done the vetting for you if they are.

 


Staff


A dentist isn’t a one-person show. Quality support staff can make or break a patient experience. A practice with one dentist and one hygienist won’t be able to handle as many patients as one with more hygienists and dental assistants.


Dentist:


 DDS. The dentist will read x-rays, determine treatment plan, enact treatment plan, perform oral surgery. Common dental procedures dentists provide: Fillings, extractions, repairs to cracked or chipped teeth, treat gum disease, whiten teeth, install crowns and veneers.

  • Education and training
  • Years in business
  • Reviews from patients
  • Philosophies on patient treatment (often on their website about us page
  • Professional accolades
  •  Papers published
  • Speeches given
  • Conferences attended

Dental Assistant:


The people who assist the dentist in coordinating patient care (appointments, follow-ups, referrals), sterilize equipment, process x-rays and labs. They often also work with billing, insurance, and patient records. A dental assistant may be able to help you with billing questions and communicating with insurance.
 In some states they also are trained to perform dental procedures like temporary crowns, sealants, fluorides, and topical anesthetic

  •  Education and training
  • Years working and years working with dentist
  • Number of Dental Assistants
  • Tasks Dental assistants perform in the practice


Dental Hygienists:


The people who clean your teeth, take x-rays, and remind you to floss more.

  • Education and training
  • Years working and years working with that dentist
  • Number of Hygienists



Specialists:


Here are some common oral care specialists that might work in an adjacent practice or in conjunction with your new dental provider

Endodontist:


DDS or DMD with specialty training in endodontics. Endodontists focus on the inner workings of your teeth. They focus on preventing dental diseases that affect the blood vessels, roots, nerves, pulp, dentin, and other interior parts of your teeth. Endodontists commonly provide services related to root canals, infected tissue removal, cosmetic dentistry like inner-tooth whitening, implants, and veneers.

  • Hours/days of week with dentist
  • Education and training
  • Procedures they provide
  • Endodontists have different philosophies for treatment and will or will not advocate for certain procedures
  • Anesthesia usage and availability
  • Patient reviews
  • Before/after images of patients
  • Professional accolades
  •  Papers published
  • Speeches given
  • Conferences attended


Periodontist:


DDS or DMD with specialty training in periodontics. Periodontists focus on gums, gum disease, and the ways gums impact overall health of the patient and their teeth. Periodontists delve into deeper medical issues than regular dentists often working with primary care providers for heart disease, diabetes, sinus issues, and pregnancy. Periodontists commonly provide services related to gum health such as dental implant installation, repair, and maintenance

  • Hours/days of week with dentist
  • Services provided
  • Education and training
  • Medical insurance coverage
  • Professional accolades
  •  Papers published
  • Speeches given
  • Conferences attended


Orthodontist:


DDS or DMD Orthodontists focus on the structure of your mouth and the way your teeth and jaw impact that shape. They supervise facial growth in children, diagnose and treat misaligned teeth, install and monitor braces, headgear, palate expanders, and retainers.

  1. Hours/days of week with dentist
  2. Education and training
  3. Before/after images of patients
  4. Reviews from patients
  5. Philosophies on patient treatment (often on their website about us page
  6. Professional accolades
  7.  Papers published
  8. Speeches given
  9. Conferences attended



First appointment with a new dentist


Not unlike a first date, the first appointment with a new dentist can be nerve-wracking. The care provider wants to know about you, you want to know about them, but ultimately you both want a quality smile in the end.


Before your first appointment:

 

  • Start thinking about your mouth and any issues you’re having. The week before your first appointment, take a note of anytime you have sensitivity, pain, or discomfort in your mouth
  • Figure out how you’re going to get there and where to park
  • Particularly in big cities where parking can be expensive and difficult to find
  • Arrive early for paperwork
  • Many practitioners are doing online patient files and will have you fill them out digitally before your first appointment


At your first appointment:

 

  • Often new patients will receive X-Rays before any treatments (even cleanings) are given. This can be uncomfortable.
  • Bring up any of the issues you noted in the last week to the hygienist/dentist when they ask
  • Ask any question you have
  • About the procedures, your oral care, your favorite brand of toothpaste and brush.


Between appointments:

  • Your dentist will give suggestions for how to best care for your smile, but here are things everyone should do between dental appointments for the best experience.
  • Brush regularly
  • Floss daily
  • Pay attention to tooth sensitivity, pain, and mouth discomfort
  • Recommend your awesome new dentist to friends and family

 

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