Finding a new dentist can be a daunting challenge. Whether you are looking for a specialist for urgent needs or just someone to check out your oral health a couple of times each year, it’s an important task of evaluation. With a bit of research and thought, you can find a trusted partner for your health care.
Need a specialist?
To start, decide what kind of dentist you want. You may need to find a specialist for certain conditions. Periodontists specialize in the gums and other tissues surrounding the teeth. Endodontists deal with the inside of teeth, the pulp and roots. Orthodontists straighten teeth and help with skeletal and muscular problems in the face and jaws. Oral and maxillofacial surgeons treat diseases, injuries and defects of the hard and soft tissues. Prosthodontists work with patients who are missing teeth for any number of reasons. These specialties are recognized by the American Dental Association, and the practitioners must meet certain requirements and be certified by licensing boards.
There are also dentists who specialize by the types of patients they treat. Pediatric dentists specialize in children’s oral conditions, and some dentists have a large clientele of elderly people. Dentists may have special experience in treating patients with conditions such as diabetes, HIV/AIDs, autism, physical handicaps, cancer, and so on.
Ask those in the know
If you are searching for a dentist, one place to start is the American Dental Association’s website. The ADA website also provides information about the various specialties and can help locate board-certified practitioners. You can also use other searching sites or local business directories. Personal recommendations are especially helpful. Ask your physician or a pharmacist, and query your family and friends, neighbors, co-workers, church members, and others.
Getting down to specifics
After you develop a list of candidates, you will want to do some research on some of the basic issues. Where is the office? What are the hours of operation? Does the dentist take your insurance? Is the dentist taking new patients? Most of these questions can be answered by a quick phone call to the office.
You may also want to research some of the aspects of doing business with this professional. For example, you might ask how long is the normal wait to make an appointment? Are you charged if you miss or break an appointment? Does the dentist provide emergency or after hours care? Will they file insurance claims, or will you need to do that? Does the dentist accept your co-pay, or do you have to pay up front and be reimbursed by your insurance company later? How about financing and payment plans? You may be able to get an answer on the first phone call to the office, or you may want to speak to the office manager for a more detailed conversation.
Once you’ve decided on a dentist to visit, you may add some additional criteria to your evaluation. For starters, how do you feel about the office staff? Are they professional and efficient? Are they friendly, or at least not annoying? Do you get in and out of the office in reasonable time? As for the dentist and the hygienist, are you able to establish some rapport or chemistry? See if you can determine the level of interest in your whole-body health and in you as a person. After all, you are more than just a mouthful of teeth, and your oral health and comfort are fundamental to your overall health and well-being.
Up to date is essential
You should also try to determine if the dental office has up-to-date equipment. Ask the dentist and hygienist about their continuing education courses and how they stay on top of the latest research. For example, has your dentist been reading about the emerging application of topical antioxidants in oral care? How attuned is the dentist to the problems of oxidative stress on oral tissues caused by chronic illness, stress, environmental pollutants, and toxic substances such as alcohol, nicotine, and dental materials? Can he or she explain the link between oral disease, inflammation and systemic disease?
Ask the dentist about whether the office provides AO ProVantage dental gel or AO ProRinse. An increasing number of dentists and hygienists are learning about the advantages of incorporating topical antioxidants as part of a routine office visit and recommending PerioSciences products as part of regular oral hygiene, including for patients with special conditions or recovering from oral procedures.
The ideal dentists will be on top of their profession, up to date with technology and education, and ready to focus on your needs. Those dentists are out there and with a little effort and some good questions, you can find them.