Choosing the Right Dentist

People usually like to have a family dentist who takes care of basic preventive needs such as teeth cleaning and X-rays. If you need more specialized care, your dentist will likely refer you to the appropriate specialist. There are a various number of specialists today; you want to make sure that you go to the right specialist:

  • Pedodontists specialize in children's dentistry
  • Endodontists perform root canal therapy
  • Prosthodontics replace missing or damaged teeth
  • Periodontists treat diseases related to bone and gum tissue
  • Orthodontists use braces and other means to reposition the teeth
  • Oral Pathologists identify diseases of the mouth
  • Maxillofacial Surgeons correct cosmetic problems of the jaw and face

It’s important to consider a number of things when you are looking for a new dentist. First, ask your current dentist if she or he has a colleague for suggestions. This is often a good way to begin a new relationship, however it’s not guaranteed. If you don’t feel comfortable asking your current dentist, ask a family member, friend, coworker or neighbor for a recommendation, even the family physician or pharmacist, or call (1-888-581-3124) for a leading business service, or go to our business services link.

After having narrowed your choices down, call or stop by to learn more about the dental offices on your list. At this point, you ought to consider whether or not the office is easy to get to from home or work; whether or not appointments are convenient; if the payment options that are available are in fact convenient; the manner in which the office handles dental benefit plans; and the specifications concerning dental emergencies.

At the first appointment with a new dentist, you’ll want to casually inspect the office to see that it’s clean. A dental office may require you to complete a medical and dental history form. This often shows thoroughness. Remember to note whether or not infection control procedures are followed. You can do this by looking for the trademark white medical mask and rubber gloves. It’s also to your benefit to pay attention to whether or not treatment options are discussed at length before the surgery. Dentists who are hasty to perform surgery should be addressed and questioned. Remember, it’s your right as a patient. And at that point, you’ll also want to make sure to notice if the dental staff in general is responsive to questioning when it comes time to pay the bill.

It's important to have a list of questions that you can ask when you contact a dental office. In most cases, you'll be speaking with a receptionist or office manager to gather information about the practice; most dentists are too busy to speak with people who aren't already patients.

Here are some samples questions that you'll want to consider:

  • What are the office hours?
  • If I were a patient, would the dentist return my calls, or would I speak with a staff member?
  • If I don't have dental insurance, will the dental office work out a payment plan for me?
  • Are health and safety guidelines followed?
  • Are disposable instruments used? How are utensils sterilized?

The American Dental Association (ADA), Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have all issued guidelines for infection control in dental offices. Some of the things to look for include: instruments in disposable covers or sterile bags, gloves worn by dental assistants, gloves and a mask worn by the dentist, general cleanliness in the exam and waiting rooms. The best thing to do is trust your judgment; the office personnel shouldn't mind answering your questions about office procedures such as sterilization techniques.

Though finding the right dentist may take a bit of detective work, it's worth it when you find someone you like and trust. And finally, when you take the necessary amount of time to locate a suitable dentist, there is less of a chance that you’ll have to do it again in the near future. [back] [pick a state]

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