Choosing the right dentist can be daunting. You are not only looking for the most impressive qualifications and background but you are, more importantly, looking for a person you feel comfortable with. You and your dentist will be long term oral health partners – so, it’s extremely important that you find someone whose judgment you can trust and who gives you a comfortable feeling.
With thousands of dentists practicing all over the country, how do you narrow your search down to that one person who is right for you? To make matters more confusing, you’ll find their names ending with different acronyms and monikers, which will probably leave you balled up if you don’t know the drill.
Here is what you should know and what you should look for when looking for the right dentist for you and your family.
Professional Qualifications and Degrees
Most dentists list their names with the acronyms DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery) and DMD (Doctor of Dental Medicine). These might confuse you if you don’t know the difference between them. The good thing is, they are both the same thing. These doctors studied the same thing and earned the same degrees. Both DDS and DMD mean the dentist has had the proper training to perform treatment as a “General Dentist.”
Most general dentists use the monikers “Cosmetic Dentistry” and “Family Dentistry”. These indicate that the dentist offers cosmetic dental treatments or can treat your whole family. However, these aren’t any officially recognized dental specializations. Dental specializations as recognized by the American Dental Association include Pedodontists (pediatric dentists), Edodontists (root canal specialists), orthodontists (bite specialists for dental braces), Oral surgeons, Periodontists (gum disease specialists) and Prosthodontists (restorative specialists).
However, it’s important to note that most General Dentists do perform treatments as dental specialists; for example, wisdom tooth extraction, root canal treatment, dental crown and bridge procedures.
Hence, if you’re having a severe tooth ache or fear you might need a root canal treatment, you don’t necessarily need to go to an Edodontist – a family dentist could easily and comfortably perform the treatment for you.
Office Location and Office Hours
As stressed earlier, your personal comfort is extremely important when it comes to choosing a dentist you’ll partner with for a long term. And when it comes to comfort, you want to make sure the dentist’s office is located at a place you can easily reach. It’s not only important for everyday convenience but also for emergencies.
Besides location, make sure the dentist is available at the times most suitable for you so you can schedule appointments comfortably. If weekends suit you the most, ask whether they are open on Saturday or not.
It might also be a good idea to inquire about when the next available appointments are. Many busy practices have appointments scheduled months in advance, which might not work best for you in case of emergencies.
Consider whether the dentist offers arrangements for emergency treatments. Though most dentists don’t cater to urgent needs, many of them do make arrangements with a colleague or an emergency referral service, which might be helpful.
A crucial thing to consider is whether your dentist accepts your insurance. Dental treatments can be expensive; hence, a dentist that accepts your insurance will be a huge plus.
Also, take estimates of the major dental treatments like root canal therapy, fillings and crown treatment to get an idea of the costs, which can vary by practice. Even if the dentist accepts insurance, you’ll be paying a part of the costs yourself.
Apart from all the technicalities, meet the dentist and see if you feel comfortable with them. A dentist might be one of the best in the country but you might not feel comfortable with them, while another local dentist might give you that feeling of trust and confidence. See if the dentist hears and understands your concerns and if you are able to explain your symptoms and ask questions. Does the dentist explain the treatment options in detail? Do you feel comfortable expressing your fear and anxiety and does the dentist understand your fears?
Depending on how anxious you feel about dental procedures and the pain associated with them, you might want to consider the amenities provided by the dentist for comfortable treatments like sedation dentistry or other treatments like CEREC or Waterlase.
Updated Technology and Treatment Options
To make sure you get the best treatment options, consider whether the dentist keeps abreast of new changes and developments in dentistry. Do they attend seminars, trade shows and use continuing education courses to learn about new techniques and technologies? Ask them about new technologies like Invisalign and see if they offer those. This might be a good way to get an idea about the new technologies and techniques offered.
Inspecting the Dentist’s Office
When visiting the dentist’s office, take a look at the hygiene conditions of the place. Does everything look neat and clean? Is the staff willing to answer your questions? Is everyone wearing gloves when performing treatments? And in particular, what policies they have on infection control?
Where to Look
When you know what to look for, the next step is where to look. Here is how you can find the best dentist for your needs.
- Ask your friends and relatives. Word of mouth is the best way to find trustworthy services. If a friend has had a pleasurable experience with a dentist, they might be right for you too.
- Ask your family doctor for a reference.
- Contact your local or state dental society to recommend the best dentist for you.
- Look up in online directories and see what kind of experiences other people have had and gather information online.
With these pointers and guidelines, you can easily find the perfect dentist for you and your family that offers the best treatment options, is highly qualified and trained, and above all, whom you feel comfortable with.