Top 5 questions to ask when searching for a new dentist dental patient news wisdom tooth extraction pain

A recent story out of North Carolina inspired this post, seems there was a dental interloper out there practicing dentistry without an actual license. For whatever reason we require a new dentist, how can we be sure our newly chosen dentist is legit?

When we go looking for a new dentist, most often we turn to family and friends for a trusted personal referral. When those opportunities aren’t available we usually take to the Internet for a quick search of dental practices in our immediate area. That’s when the fun begins. It seems like we go on a never-ending quest, reading online patient reviews, researching any potential warning signs, and matching our dental insurance providers, all to find a personable and professional dentist to trust with our family oral health needs.

OK, that’s two questions in one but nobody pays attention to ‘Top 6’ lists.

If our prospective new dentist is not in a convenient location, to either work or home, we’ll most likely choose a dentist that is. Convenience never goes out of style, and there are plenty of excuses out there to skip our dental appointments altogether. But, we need to be realistic when choosing a new dentist, and experience often tops our list of prerequisites when choosing a new family dentist.

We all want a dentist that is both an experienced upstanding member of the local community, and at the cutting edge of health care technology. A good chair-side manner doesn’t hurt either. That doesn’t necessarily mean the new dental practice down the street with the wet-behind-the-ears tooth jockey, complete with all the techno tools of today, isn’t a good choice. Just consider experience and location in your quest for a new dentist. By simply asking the questions you may learn a lot more about the practice, and that could make the difference in your decision.

Location matters, but sometimes we’ll go to the ends of the Earth to get what we want. Especially if we’re talking a specialized area of dentistry. For dental procedures such as sedation, cosmetics, and oral surgery for instance, dental patients have been known to travel hours or even out of state to see a trusted dental professional for such procedures. Maybe we wouldn’t want to travel 2 hours for a check-up, but we may consider the journey for a shiny new set of veneers. Ask the dentist, or the scheduling coordinator, if there are any specialized areas of focus within the practice. Do they offer any traditional orthodontics, how about clear braces? What types of pain management does the practice offer? How many (veneers, sedation, extractions…etc.) cases has the doctor performed in the past year?

With technology advancing faster than we can keep pace a lot of times, it’s important to know what kind of continuing education policies exist at our chosen dental practice. Our new dentist’s responsibility to continuing education is a good indicator of their commitment to our surrounding community. State requirements differ, and amassing umpteen thousand hours of continuing education may not leave enough time to actually practice dentistry. Balance should be the goal, a regular schedule of yearly continuing education, backed up by practical application in the dental office often times equates to happy dental patients. By asking the questions that matter we can best determine an easily navigable course of dental health for our families.

Ask the practice if they have any testimonials from existing patients. Often times peer experience can be the make or break point when choosing a new dentist. Credentials, location, and continuing education are important factors, but the words of someone that has sat in the chair offer a peek into our future dental experience. Beware of the dental practice that has zero existing patient testimonials to review, it either means they don’t care enough to communicate with their patients, or nobody has anything good to say.

A word about online reviews – please consider the validity of online reviews when searching for a new dentist. Some can be helpful and 100% legitimate, and some can be totally fake – online reviews can be good indicators, but just make sure they are only part of your decision making process, not the be all end all.

With the economy being what it is presently, financial considerations often take the place of quality of treatment. We shouldn’t make the mistake of trading a substandard “in network” dental practice with that of a fee for service dental practice just because they don’t take our insurance. Most practices (and insurance providers) offer some type of middle ground; whether it’s no-interest financing or reduced fees for “out of network” providers, there are options available to new dental patients. We need to start with our insurance provider and narrow down the search. If we find a dentist that doesn’t accept our insurance, but we’ve heard great things from friends, open the dialogue with the practice, surely they have financial options available to best serve their surrounding community. And if not, there is another practice out there that does…we just have to search a little more. But isn’t our health, and that of our families, worth it?

While the majority of us will never come across someone practicing dentistry without a license, that doesn’t mean all dental practices are equal when it comes to serving their patients. The list above is a starting point in our search for a good dentist. We all want a dentist that is an upstanding member of the community, respectful of patient communication, and the leader of an engaging and informative staff.