What Should I Look For When Choosing a Dentist?

There are numerous reasons you could be shopping for a new dentist. Patients typically must search online for "a dentist near me" when they change residences, for example. But you may also be looking because you had a bad experience with a previous provider. Or perhaps you just put off care for so long, it is time to start anew. Whatever the reason, it is imperative to remember you do not just have to pick the dentistry practice closest to you or choose randomly among the options available. You can and should take your time to consider all relevant aspects before finally settling on a permanent provider. The following are several crucial factors you should contemplate when choosing a dentist.

Which Services Are Offered?

Before anything else, you should make sure whatever dental clinic you are considering offers services that you know will be beneficial to you. Perhaps you are already aware of the kind of dental care you need because you struggle with a particular problem. At a minimum, the next dentist you see should be qualified and ready to address this issue. On the other hand, if you are seeking general services like check-ups and cleanings, you will probably want to avoid any place that is too specialized. Since you do not know what kind of future care you may need, the best strategy would be to find a practice with many diverse offerings. A good choice of a dental clinic will have a solid variety of treatments available. When considering a practice, find out what demographics they serve. Does the clinic offer family services and allow children? Do they accommodate geriatric patients? Are restorative or cosmetic services available? If you have other family members who require care, find a location that works for everyone. Last but not least, see if your potential dental office has any options when it comes to emergencies. Some clinics provide emergency care after-hours and on the weekends. Since accidents and sudden damage can afflict anyone anytime, this quality is valuable in a dental clinic.

Does the Clinic Work With Your Insurer?

Whether a dental office is in your insurer's network is definitely something you want to know and meditate on. But it is not necessarily good advice to say you should only consult the list of in-network businesses from your insurance company when choosing a new provider. Yes, ideally, you want to get the most out of having dental insurance. That is what it is there for, right? And, no doubt, procedures like root canals or fillings can get expensive, so it is natural for you to want to avoid paying for everything out of pocket. However, there are a couple of significant facts to keep in mind. For one thing, just because your insurance company covers services from a particular dentist does not mean that they recommend that practice. The two businesses have reached an agreement concerning prices and coverage, but this is no indication of the quality of service you might receive. Secondly, depending on the type of dental insurance you have, you might pay steep prices no matter what. Dental insurance can be scant in what it covers, to begin with, and co-pays or coinsurance for specific procedures may be hefty as well. So, if it comes down to choosing an excellent service out-of-network or a lacking one in-network, you should really weigh all the pros and cons. Be sure you know the exact terms of your insurance coverage. If you can afford it, you may still want to consider practices that are incompatible with the insurer.

What Training and Credentials Does the Staff Have?

When choosing a dental professional, you will, of course, want to be sure that they have the proper credentials needed to do the job well. You can find out about a dentist's background either by researching independently or visiting the office in person and asking for the information. Then, you can see for yourself if they have an education and past that you find appropriate. Equally critical as whatever schools a dental professional graduated from is their demonstrated interest in continuing education. All healthcare, dentistry included, is constantly evolving. Dental professionals should regularly seek new certifications and training to stay on top of current treatments, technology, and ethics. That should be true not only for your primary dentist but also for everyone in the office. Remember, a team of people will likely be treating you, not just one individual.

Is the Practice Keeping Up With Technology?

While a quality dental clinic does not need to have every last new gadget on the market, neither do you want to be treated by one that is overly out-of-date. As technology progresses, once-cutting-edge machinery slowly becomes standard in more and more offices. For example, you would expect to find intraoral x-rays available in any dental clinic you walk into today. Access to modern equipment will help ensure your treatments are accurate and timely. Similarly, the tech that the clerical staff uses should not be ancient history either. You will want any information on file to be backed up and secure. Plus, you will probably find receptionists more helpful if they are not battling crashing computers and jamming printers all day.

What Will Your Appointment Experience Be Like?

When you first call or visit your prospective dentist's office, ask what you can expect from a first appointment and how long it will take. If they are thorough, an initial consultation could be anywhere between one and two hours of just initial examinations, getting to know the staff, determining the exact status of your oral health, and setting goals. Also, inquire about the average length of waiting times. You can ask the office, of course, but you might want to check online reviews as well. If wait times are regularly over an hour, you might be better off looking elsewhere.

What Are the Relative Costs?

As with insurance, you should find out as much as you can about how a dental practice charges. High prices are not automatically a bad thing. A dental clinic might ask for significantly more than its competitor for good reasons. It could be because:
  • It is in a neighborhood with higher operating costs
  • It offers better technology
  • The staff have more advanced training
While an affordable dentist can be an attractive option, you do not want a cheap dentist. Cut-rate dentistry can easily cost you more in the long run. Shoddy work like a poorly addressed cavity may have to be revisited and need a more expensive fix (like a root canal and implant) in the end.

Are There Any Extra Perks or Comforts?

If you are lucky, you may have more than one excellent dental service to choose from. If each one is roughly the same distance from you, how do you decide between them? Many dental offices are now aware that some people suffer from anxiety over going to the dentist, and they are taking steps to make patients more comfortable. These efforts can involve anything from aromatherapy to more comfortable waiting rooms and even massages! It can all amount to a pretty luxurious experience if you think about it. Thus, if two clinics have equivalent care available, it does not hurt to determine what additional benefits they each offer before deciding.

Are There Positive Reviews and Referrals?

In this day and age, it is natural and advisable to check the reviews of any notable service provider in your life. That is no less true when it comes to dentistry. But any business dealing directly with the public is bound to end up with at least a few snotty complaints from displeased customers (whether merited or not), so you will have to take what you find with a grain of salt. Look for the big picture and trends in the comments of others. When enough people have written about the practice, you should get a rough idea of the average patient experience. If you want to go even further, look up local specialists in the area and ask who they work with or who they recommend. When the name of a practice comes up often, it is a good sign it has a decent reputation in the immediate professional community.

Do the Legwork, and You Won't Regret It

In this article, we have presented some solid tips for how to find a dentist. There is a lot of information on this topic, so it can seem a little overwhelming at first. You might wonder why you would ever spend so much time investigating dental practices. The reason is there are long-term implications for your oral health and thus your overall physical and emotional health. Choosing a dental professional for your care is not a light decision, so do not make it arbitrarily. Select wisely and reap the benefits.

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