How To Find a Dentist

Check up with dentist

Finding a professional dentist whom you trust is essential to your oral health.  It would be nice if you could do a simple online search and have the perfect dentist pop right up, but that's rarely the case.  While there are many quick and easy ways to search for dentists on the internet, you shouldn't base your decision on who's name appears at the top of the list, or who's office is closest to your house.  Quick and easy are not good criteria when it comes to finding a dentist.

There are multiple ways to perform the actual search for a dentist, there are a few red flags that you can look out for while you're searching and there are some final steps you should follow before settling on the dentist.  Your dentist is going to be working for you for years to come, so it makes sense to take the extra time to ensure you find a dentist who's the right fit for you.

  1. Search the ADA directory of dentists. Seven out of ten dentists are member of the American Dental Association.  ADA members have access to the latest dental studies and industry information.  They also voluntarily agree to abide by "high ethical standards".  While it's not essential that your dentist be an ADA member, it's another filter that may indicate a certain dentist will meet your standards.

  2. Go through your insurance company.  Most dental insurance websites have a search function that allows members to find dentists in their area.  Companies like Delta Dental and MetLife let you search through dentists that are covered by their plans.  Or services like 1-800-DENTIST give you the option to search online or call and speak to a customer service representative who can help you with your decision.  You should always double check that the dentist you choose accepts your dental insurance and vice versa, otherwise you might be turned away at the door, or worse off, stuck with a bill that you have to pay on your own.
  3. Open up the phone book.  Yes it's a little old fashioned these days, but the phone book is still probably the best place to find all the business listings in your area.  Although most businesses have websites today, there are still some that have not made the leap.  Many dentists don't feel the need to build their own website since they're listed in the local phone book and on other online dental directories.  It may also be more convenient for you to use your local telephone book rather than sifting through hundreds of names online.
  4. Ask a friend, family member, co-worker, or your physician or pharmacist.  As always, the best way to find a great professional ______ (you fill in the blank: hairdresser, doctor, lawyer and, yup, dentist) is to get a recommendation from someone you trust.  Ask your friends, family members, co-workers and other medical professionals whether they like their dentists and why.  Co-workers can be great to ask since they're most likely on your same dental plan.  And you can bet that your doctor and pharmacist did a thorough check on their dentists.
  5. Be wary of overly aggressive advertising.  If you see a dentist advertising on billboards, late-night TV commercials and in every local publication you pick up, it should raise a red flag.  This dentist might be more concerned with drawing new clients than focusing on patient care.  Every dentist needs to think about her business, but if your dentist is going over the top when it comes to advertising, her priorities might not align with yours.
  6. Compare dentists' pricing for multiple procedures.  Take a look at the price list for common procedures like a cleaning, filling a cavity, placing a crown and-dare I say it-a root canal.  What do the dentists you're considering charge?  Ask around or look online to determine what the average price for these procedures should be.  If your dentist seems really cheap in comparison to others, he might not be using the latest material or doing the best work.  If your dentist's prices are way above average, he may be charging too much.  Find out why if your dentist's pricing is drastically different from that of other dentists in the area.  Even though your dental insurance should pay for most procedures, price can be a telling sign.
  7. Schedule a "get acquainted visit".   Before you make an appointment to recline in the plastic chair while a blinding light is shoved in your face, you should make an appointment to meet your dentist under more normal circumstances.  Chat with your dentist.  Ask him about why he became a dentist and what he likes about the profession.  Then ask some technical questions.  Can your dentist explain a procedure you may need to have in terms you can understand?  Does your dentist focus on preventing oral health problems before they start?  Notice your surroundings.  Make sure the office appears to be clean and orderly.  Do the dental employees instill you with confidence?  Find out whether your dentist is willing to provide you with references and whether there's a contingency plan for any emergency procedures that you may need done.

    Don't take up too much of your potential dentist's time, but now's the time to ask any other questions or address any other concerns.  Your dentist should be happy to sit down with you for a few minutes.  This is his chance to secure your business for the remainder of his career, so he shouldn't be annoyed or put-off that he has to meet with you.  If he is, it may be an indicator of problems down the road.

  8. Go in for a cleaning.  Once you've found a dentist that meets your standards, go in for a cleaning.  While you're there, talk to people in the waiting room and get their impressions of your new dentist.  Don't give them the third degree, but mention that it's your first time visiting this dentist and you're wondering if they like her. 

    Pay attention while the technician is cleaning your teeth and the dentist is examining them later.  Are they both professional?  Do they do a thorough job?  Was it a pleasant experience (or at least as pleasant as dentist's offices can be)?  Do you get a good feeling about everyone at the office?  If not, you don't have to stay.  A cleaning is a relatively easy (and hopefully painless) way to evaluate a dentist's work-and that of his technicians-and to determine whether this is a dental office you're comfortable returning to every 6 months.


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