It may not surprise you that finding the right dentist is difficult for a lot of people. There are just so many factors involved and so many personal preferences to consider! Do you want a dentist who treats you like a family member, or do you just want to get in and out? Do you need to know every step of a procedure to calm your anxiety? Do you require any sort of special care? And, what about hours? And how far away is the office? Although the questions and considerations seem virtually endless, fear not! We’ve put together a helpful guide that lays out how you can find your perfect dentist before you even step foot into the office. Let’s take a look!
Know your insurance
First things first: know what kind of dental coverage you have. The last thing you want is to find your perfect dentist only to realize that he or she is out of network and you have to pay out of pocket. Dental coverage varies by employer and by insurance plan, so do your homework and learns the ins and outs of what your plan provides.
Most insurance companies have websites that will help you search for dentists in your network. These databases will usually provide only very basic information — often just the name of the dentist, the location of the office, and maybe if the office has any specialties. This is enough information to get started with. Take down the names of a few dentists with offices that are convenient for you, meaning they operating hours that work for your schedule and the office isn’t too far from your home, school, or workplace.
Ask your friends and family
In addition to the information provided by your insurance, ask your friends and family about the dentists they see, and what they think of them. This can often be the best way to find a dentist you feel comfortable with, and you’re more likely to go into your fist appointment with less anxiety if you know this particular dentist is recommended by someone you know who has had a good experience with him or her.
If you’ve moved to a new place and don’t really know who to ask about a dentist and if your insurance website doesn’t have any helpful information about dentists in your area, there are a lot of other places you can go. For example, the American Dental Association has databases that let you search for dentists in your area — you can find out more here. You can also ask your primary care doctor or pharmacist for recommendations as well. Finally, you can call your local dental association for recommendations.
Ok, I have a few prospects. Now what?
Once you have a few names, it’s time to narrow down your options further. At this point, it’s best to call the office or check to see if the office has a website for more detailed information about the practice. Here’s the information you need to find out.
- Does the practice have hours that suit your schedule? Are they open on weekends?
- Is the practice a reasonable distance from your home, work, or school?
- Does the practice offer emergency after-hours care? If so, how does it work?
- How does the office bill? Do you have to pay upfront, or will you receive a bill in the mail after your appointment?
- Does the office submit claims to your insurance company, or will you have to do that yourself?
- Will you have the chance to review options for procedures and discuss associated costs ahead of time?
- How long has the practice been open?
- What kind of credentials does the dentist and hygienist have? Where did they go to school and train?
- What can I expect when I come for my first appointment as a new patient?
- Does the dentist or dental team have any specialties? Some of the most common specialists people need are endodontists, periodontists, orthodontists, or a dentist who specializes in pediatric care
- What kind of anesthesia is the dentist certified to administer?
- What kind of ongoing education and training does the dentist do?
- Does he or she regularly attend conferences or other professional engagements to keep abreast of changes and innovations in the field?
We know these seem like a lot of questions, but don’t fret! Most dental offices have websites these days, which means you can find out most, if not all, of this information quickly and easily. All of these questions help narrow down your options to find the dentist that you can afford, offers the right treatment for you, and who you can actually go to.
One final consideration is whether or not you need a dentist who is good with treating nervous patients. This isn’t something you should be embarrassed about asking, nor should you feel that this is a rude question. Some dentists are more than happy to work with patients who are nervous and want to ensure their appointments are comfortable. These dentists will work with you to calm your anxiety however you need, whether it’s explaining the details of a procedure before it occurs, or whatever else makes you more relaxed. Some dental offices prefer patients who are less anxious, and some patients prefer dentists who won’t go into detail about procedures or ask a lot of personal questions. Your best bet is to simply get on the phone and call to find out more about the overall feeling of the office and their mission statement when it comes to treating patients. Dental offices are used to these kinds of questions, so don’t be afraid to ask!
The final test
By the time you’ve done the above, you’re likely to have found a dentist and practice that meets your needs. Still, your first in-person appointment means a lot! When you go to the office for the first time, consider the following questions:
- Is the staff pleasant and helpful?
- Did you have to wait in the waiting from a long time?
- Is the office overall neat and clean?
- Do you feel comfortable there?
- Are gloves and protective gear worn at all times?
- Were all your questions answered and treated with respect?
- Did you understand what you have to pay for and when?
If you have negative responses to any of these questions, you will want to look for a different dentist. As with any medical professional, your level of comfort with the office and the staff is incredibly important, and a medical office should always be clean and orderly. If at any time you feel uncomfortable or feel that the condition of the office is less than optimal, it’s time to go elsewhere.
Everyone has different needs when it comes to finding the right dentist. Some want to get in and out and don’t want a lot of personal interaction with their dentist, while others want to feel like they’re a part of the family. Many people find going to the dentist a nerve-wracking experience and need a warm, friendly atmosphere, and some need a dentist who specializes in treating certain conditions, like periodontitis. Doing your homework is really crucial to finding the right dentist and practice to suit your needs, as it will help ensure that by the time you come in for your first appointment, you’re sure you’ve found the right place. That being said, there’s no replacement for an in-person visit. Follow your instincts and if you’re not sure the office is right for you, don’t hesitate to go to a different one. Finding the right dentist is worth the effort, as ideally, it will be a relationship that lasts for years to come. Do you have any questions about finding a dentist? Let us know in the comments!