How to Choose the Right Dentist

on Aug 27, 2015

23% of adults and 16% of children in the US have untreated dental caries, and less than 2/3 have visited a dentist in the past 12 months. Neglecting oral health can cause pain, infections and tooth loss, and eventually require much more drastic treatment than if regular check-ups are carried out.

Because of this, choosing the right dentist is a serious matter, and there are many different factors to take into account. Whether you are terrified or tolerant, few people enjoy their dental visits, but they are undeniably necessary for good dental health.

The first thing is to ensure that the dentist you are considering is properly trained. A fully qualified dentist will have either D.D.S. or D.M.D. after their name. The former indicates that they hold a Doctorate of Dental Surgery, and the latter a Doctorate of Dental Medicine. They then undertake further study to specialize in a particular area, such as pediatric dentistry, orthodontics, or oral and maxillofacial surgery.

It is important that you feel comfortable with the dentist you choose. Their job is to help you to manage your oral and dental health, and a trusting and respectful relationship is vital. If they make you feel uncomfortable or rushed, or you lack confidence in their abilities, the relationship will always be strained.

A dentist whose style of working matches your needs is essential. Some people prefer someone who works quickly and without fuss, while others like a dentist to take their time and explain everything they are doing. Interviewing a dentist before you register with them, or asking their reception staff about their approach, can make the difference between finding someone who works in a way that lets you relax, and someone who, while being perfectly capable, has an ethos which grates on you.

Different dentists offer different services. Some specialize in cosmetic dentistry, while others focus more on preventative and routine work. Considering the services you expect to be using in the medium- to long-term will go a long way to ensure that the dentist you choose is a good match.

Ask for recommendations from friends and family. Do they rate their dentist? If you are looking for a specialist, who does your routine dentist advise you see? While choosing a dentist is a personal decision, advice from people you trust can be invaluable.

There are also practical considerations. How far away is the dentist's office? Is it easy to get an appointment? Are the staff friendly and helpful? How does the dentist handle emergency care? Your own priorities will vary, but you do need to find out their arrangements for dealing with emergencies early on. Being awake at 4am with agonizing toothache is the worst time to find out that they do not prioritize emergency dental care, or have any arrangements in place for out-of-hours treatment.

Look at their advertising and consider its focus. Are their aims similar to yours? Do they appear to care about helping you and your family to employ good preventative dental hygiene, or do they predominantly promote expensive, one-off procedures and ignore day-to-day care?

Online reviews of healthcare services are becoming ever more popular as hospitals, doctors and dentists are subject to unmoderated, anonymous praise and criticism on websites. The anonymity offered by these sites can mean that patients are able to feel free to be honest about the treatment and care they receive, without fear of repercussions. However, it is also ripe for abuse, risking malicious, untrue comments from disgruntled patients or even rivals. While online review sites can provide valuable information, excessive praise or criticism should be taken with a pinch of salt.

No matter how much preparation you carry out, sometimes the dental practice that looked perfect on paper disappoints in reality. If the quality of care is not what you hoped for, or the work seems low quality or does not last, do not hesitate to start the process again. Use the research you have already undertaken to look again at your shortlist and try someone different.

The two most important aspects of choosing the right dentist are research, and instinct. Find out what others say about the dentist you are considering, and check their website and promotional material. Similarly, ask yourself whether you feel comfortable with what you have learned, and how you have been treated. The decision about whose services you employ is down to you, and it is crucial to make the right choice.

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