Tooth care and dental hygiene are extremely important components of taking care of yourself — so much so that the selection of a dentist is not a task that should be undertaken lightly. Whether you are between dentists, coming out of a long period of dental inattention, or have moved to a new geographic area, it can be tough to find a dental professional whom you trust. There are lots of dentists out there but it can be daunting to begin the search. After all, this person is going to have their fingers in your mouth for long periods of time! It’s important to feel confident and happy with your dentist. Here are three tips to help you navigate the world of dentist selection.
Referrals from friends, co-workers and/or family are the best place to start. If you’re new to the area start with an immediate neighbor in your approximate age range; if you’re searching for a family dentist ask a neighbor with children. If you are switching dentists and were happy with your old dentist, ask them or their office staff who they might recommend. Any recommendation from a patient who has actually been treated in the prospective dental office gives you a starting point from which to evaluate, as this patient has dealt with the office staff, the dentist, the hygienist and possible insurance/billing issues as they relate to that practice. As Albert Einstein said, “The only source of knowledge is experience.” That being said, if you have dental insurance you can also use the search function on your insurance’s website to give you some starting names in your general vicinity (and you’ll know that they accept your insurance for sure!).
Have a list of questions
Starting with the basic questions of prices for the most common services and what insurances they accept, prepare a list of questions to ask each prospective dentist and/or dental office. This will give you a good reference point to tell the differences between the practices. Some things you could ask would be how the practice handles emergencies outside of regular business hours and its policy regarding missed appointments. You might want to seek out detailed information on the dentist's training and approach to preventive dentistry, and how long newcomers must wait for a non-emergency appointment. For some people interested in a holistic approach, you would want to ask about whether the dentist is ok with you refusing fluoride treatments and if they can do amalgam fillings rather than silver mercury-laced fillings. It can be difficult to find a dentist with a more holistic approach, but there are holistic dentists out there if you look hard enough. With a combination of a trusted referral and asking the right questions, you can find quite a few practices who try to minimize chemical exposure.
You’ll first want to confirm that the new dentist takes your insurance (if you have insurance, of course). The prices between dentists in the same geographic area can vary wildly. If you are truly on your own, you might want to visit a couple of dentists’ offices to have a look. Although this seems obvious, a dentist with televisions in the ceiling and a fancy three-dimensional, full-color computerized x-ray display that shows your teeth in HD resolution will be more expensive than one with a more bare-bones office more focused on patient care than expensive tools. It all depends on what you value (and what your insurance might cover). Don’t wait until you’re sitting in the chair to ask these questions and compare prices; you might be unpleasantly surprised. If you are uninsured and money is tight, consider going to a dental school where students in training will perform basic procedures under faculty supervision at reduced prices. A full list of dental schools in the USA is available at the American Dental Association’s (ADA) website.
Alliance For Affordable Services members can save up to 60% on almost all dental procedures with thousands of dentists nationwide with the optional Discount Dental Plan. Minor and major procedures are included, as well as orthodontics for children and adults. For more information, and to become an Alliance member, visit the Alliance Direct Benefits website today or call us at 1-800-733-2242 (M-F, 7am-5:30pm Central Time).