Although most people only visit the dental office twice each year, the dentist-patient relationship is a long-term partnership that can have a tremendous impact on your health and self-confidence. Whether you are unsatisfied with your current provider, have moved or switched your insurance company, here are six factors you should consider when choosing a new dentist:
1. An In-Network Provider
Selecting an out-of-network dentist means you are responsible for paying a larger share of the bill, so it is vital to contact your insurance carrier to determine if the dentist is a contracted preferred provider. The insurance company can verify the status of a particular dentist if you have received a recommendation from someone or offer suggestions for various dentists in your area. When shopping for a dentist, ask for the contact information of three to five nearby dentists who are accepting new patients.
2. Professional Qualifications
While it may seem time-intensive, checking a provider’s credentials is actually an easy process and an essential protective step to ensure that you choose the best dentist possible. Ask the insurance carrier for information on each suggested dentist’s training and the length of time that they have been contracted with the company. National, state and local dental societies can also supply details or confirm information about registered providers.
Every state dental board offers free online research tools so that patients can verify a provider’s current and past license status as well as view any complaints or disciplinary actions. It is critical that the provider is registered with the state board, which generally requires dentists to provide proof of education from an accredited program, pass post-graduate exams, carry malpractice insurance and undergo an in-depth background check.
Details about dental assistants and hygienists are also available through these channels.
3. The Right Fit
Since finding the right fit is a subjective process, you may have to meet with multiple providers for a consultation before making a final choice. One important consideration is the disposition of the entire team. A friendly personality from the receptionist to the hygienist to the dentist goes a long way in how comfortable you feel. You want to find a caring dentist who gives you their full attention, patiently explains issues and procedures, offers alternative therapies, listens to your concerns and puts your fears at ease.
4. A Warm, Welcoming Office
The office itself also provides many clues about what the dental practice values. The front desk assistants should be warm and welcoming. The cozy waiting room should be filled with comfortable chairs, current magazines and clean toys for the kids rather than frustrated patients who have been waiting a long time to get called in for their appointments. Dental chairs should be comfortable and clean, and equipment should be updated to take advantage of the latest technology.
5. Range of Services Provided
Most family dentists are general practitioners offering preventative and minor restorative care. A small office with one or two dentists will likely be more personable, but the range of services the practitioners are able to offer might be limited. During the consultation, ask about which procedures are handled in-house and which ones are sent out for processing. You’ll also want to make sure your dentist has a clear way to handle emergency situations that arise outside of normal business hours. Since dental procedures can become expensive, you will also want to know if the provider offers flexible treatment and payment plans.
6. A Good Reputation
While you don’t necessarily need an award-winning dentist for traditional preventative care, you do want a provider who is well liked by patients. A quick Google search on the dentist can sometimes return unexpected negative reviews or glowing recommendations. You can also post a request on social media to ask your network if anyone has worked with a particular dentist. Using this method, you’ll likely get a range of great leads on providers that you hadn’t yet considered.
After visiting a dentist’s office, take into consideration any red flags that might have popped up: a crowded waiting room, unclean furniture, outdated equipment, unhappy staff members or a demeaning attitude from the dentist.