How to Choose a Dentist (in Four Steps)
When you’re looking for a new dentist, you’re searching for more than someone to just clean your teeth. “Your dental health is such a vital part of your overall health, so it’s important for every patient to have a dental home,” says Dr. Cathy Taylor-Osborne, an ADA dentist and director of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s Bureau of Oral Health. “That means there is always someone looking out for the best interest of you and your family.”
Having a dental home allows you to feel comfortable when you’re dropping in for a regular visit and gives you a safe and trusted place to turn for a procedure or dental emergency. Here’s how to find the best dental fit for you and your family.
Start with the Basics
Regular visits are key to a healthy smile, so start with the details that work best with your lifestyle and dental care needs. Some things to consider include:
- Is the office easy to get to from your home or job?
- Do they have convenient office hours?
- If you have dental benefits, is this dentist in your network?
- Doctor-patient communication is very important. Do you need translation or interpreter services?
- Is the dentist a member of the ADA? (Learn about the 5 promises all ADA dentists make to their patients.)
Launch the Search
Now that you’re looking for a dentist, you’re probably noticing advertisements online, in the newspaper and even in your mailbox. Social media sites may also have patient reviews of dentists near you, but remember that every person’s dental health needs and experiences are their own.
Here are some great places to start looking for a dentist:
- The ADA’s Find-A-Dentist tool. Search by name and, location and specialty.
- Your local dental society. They can give you a list of dentist’s names in your area.
- A trusted friend or relative. If your mother says she loves her dentist, check them out!
- If you don’t have benefits or have trouble affording dental services, your local health department or nearby dental schools can help you find care. Here are some helpful resources.
Once you’ve found a few good candidates, visit their websites and see if their offices are on social media to learn more about them.
Meet and Greet
To find the right dentist, don’t be shy about calling or visiting the dentists on your list before deciding. “Schedule consultation time with the dentist to meet with the dentist and staff before making an appointment,” Dr. Taylor-Osborne says. “Make a list of questions and bring your records so the dentist can take a look at your dental history if you want to ask something more specific.” You’ll also be able to see if the office is welcoming, comfortable and neat.
A few questions you might want to ask are:
- Will the dentist explain ways to help you prevent dental health problems? Is dental health instruction provided?
- How does the dentist and office staff handle emergencies outside of office hours?
- Is the office staff familiar with your benefit plan, and do they offer financial options for treatment costs?
- Will your medical and dental history be recorded and placed in a permanent file?
Dr. Taylor-Osborne encourages anyone looking for a dentist to share past dental experiences or dental concerns, including any anxiety. “Make sure the dentist understands your concerns and answers all your questions,” she says.
Pick a Partner
Above all, you want to choose a dentist who can be a part of your total health care team. “So much of your dental health can impact your overall health,” Dr. Taylor-Osborne says. “Look for someone who can be a coach to motivate you, a trusted advisor to turn to when health issues arise and a partner to make dental care decisions with.”
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