Find a dentist that’s right for you.

Use these tips to find a dentist that’s right for you.

With something as important as choosing a dentist, it’s vital you make a well-informed choice. Glowing recommendations from friends and family are certainly a big help if you’re searching for any type of service provider. But you should look for other things in a dentist.

First, there are some purely practical considerations. Things like the dentist’s location. Will it be convenient for you to visit them whether you’re coming from home or from work? Location may not be an option, but if it is, and if you will need frequent care, it may make a difference.

If you need to schedule an appointment on the weekend or in the evening, will the dentist be available? Are the waiting room, office space, furnishings and equipment clean and well maintained? The answers to these types of questions can help narrow your final selection, especially if you have a large number of options.

Preventive Oral Health 

Beyond these types of practical considerations, there are number of other questions you can ask that will help you make the best choice.

Don’t think of the dentist simply as someone who can restore oral health.

At its most basic, oral health comes down to prevention and restoration. Don’t think of the dentist simply as someone who can restore oral health. Instead, see your dentist as someone who can help you understand and practice good oral health prevention strategies.

A caring dentist will take the time to explain the preventive techniques needed to keep you in the best oral health. In addition, the dentist should draw your attention to any problem areas that may be developing and provide specific instructions – and, if needed, a plan – for how to deal with the areas in question.

Emergency Dental Services

While it’s very important, prevention is only one part of good oral care. What will happen, though, if you have a dental emergency? Will the dentist see you right away if you break a tooth? What if the dentist is out of the office or on vacation?

Many dentists do make special arrangements…

Many dentists do make special arrangements, so if they’re unavailable when emergencies happen, their patients will still receive the timely care they need. That’s not always the case though. Be sure you understand a prospective dentist’s emergency procedures before you really need them.

Treatment Fees and Payment Plans

Finally, before you choose a dentist, you’ll want to find out whether specific information about treatment fees and the dentist’s payment plan is provided to patients before treatment is scheduled.

If you have dental insurance, you may need to determine whether the dentist participates in your plan. With certain types of dental insurance, pretreatment authorization for services may be required. Even if you don’t have insurance, most dentists will be happy to discuss the fees for needed services and the ways you can plan to pay.

You should never put off needed dental treatment. However, be sure to take the time you need to find the dentist that’s right for you.

Is there anything you would add to this list? Let us know in a comment below!

To learn more about dental insurance plans and dental terminology, visit the Resources section.

Share a smile with us! Follow us on Twitterlike us on Facebook, or add us to Google+.

Educational and Licensing Requirements for Dentists in the US

: How 5 hurdles and a marathon help keep your dentist on her toes...   

What, you may well ask, are the minimum requirements for someone to stick their mitts in your mouth? Well, like so many things, it depends on whom you ask. But if you ask the US government, you’ll discover the educational and licensing requirements for US dentists are far from minimal, indeed.

A degree from an accredited dental school is only the first hurdle.

Training in US dental schools

Dentists face educational hurdles.

The educational and licensing requirements for US dentists are far from minimal. A degree from an accredited dental school is only the first hurdle.

Before they can get into dental school, candidates must have at least three years of undergraduate education. Still, most dental schools in the US actually require applicants to have earned their BA.

Once they make it through the doors, future dentists find that dental schools are set up very much like medical schools. The academic program takes four years to complete. Students divide their time between courses that cover medical science, dental science, and hands-on, clinical training. No student graduates from a US dental school without passing the two-part National Board Dental Exam known as the NBDE I and II.

As is true in a number of countries around the world, including Japan, Sweden, and Canada, the US defines a dentist as a healthcare pro who has graduated from an accredited dental school with one of two degrees. These are the Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) and Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) degrees. They’re just two out of a long list of dentistry degrees that exist around the world.

Dental Degrees: What’s the difference between the DMD and DDS?

How is a DMD different than a DDS degree? The simple answer is, the two are the same. Except for the slightly different names, the degrees are functionally equal, according to the American Dental Association. That said, more schools do use the DDS name.

Even more requirements…

More hurdles ahead? You bet there are.

…before anyone with a dental degree can practice general dentistry in the US, they must also pass a licensing exam…

You may think spending most of a decade to earn undergraduate and graduate degrees would be enough. Yet, before anyone with a dental degree can practice general dentistry in the US, they must also pass a licensing exam. Some states administer their own licensing exams, but in general, this is done by one of five regional testing agencies.

And they aren’t through yet…

With a successful licensing exam behind them, dentists must still apply to the states they plan to work in. What’s more, they must pass a state’s ethics exam before they can set up their practice.

Lastly, all dentists must complete a number of Continuing Dental Education (CDE) courses each year so they can keep their license. The specific number of courses varies by state.

Five Hurdles and a Marathon

Undergraduate and graduate degrees? Check. The two-part National Board Dental Exam? Check. Federal and state licensing? Check. Devoting even more time to staying up to date, year after year? Check. That’s five major hurdles and a lifetime learning marathon still ahead.

…seems like just about the right number of hurdles…

Hmmm…come to think of it, that seems like just about the right number of hurdles for someone to clear before you should let them put their hands on your pearly whites.

Share a smile with us! Follow us on Twitterlike us on Facebook, or add us to Google+.

Look good and feel good with dental bridges.

Dental bridges don’t just help you look your best. They help you feel your best, too.

There are good reasons why people get dental bridges, or “fixed partial dentures.” When a dentist replaces a tooth or teeth with a bridge, she mends not only your smile but also your health.

If gaps between teeth are not filled in, or “bridged,” your face can lose its natural shape. Chewing with teeth missing can cause the force of your bite to be misdirected, too. This can make the teeth above or below the gap start to “erupt” or drift out of position. That, in turn, can make it hard to chew and speak.

So you see, a bridge does not just fill a gap: it can help you look your best, speak properly, chew correctly, and even digest food better.

Three types of dental bridges

At their most basic, bridges have three parts. First, there are the two crowns that go on the two teeth on each side of the gap. Next, there is the false tooth or teeth that fill the gap. Dental pros call these false teeth “pontics.” A pontic can be made from many materials such as gold or metal alloys, ceramics, porcelain, or some mix of these.

Bridges come in three main types. The basic type described above is called “traditional.” This type is the most common. In most cases, they are made of ceramic or porcelain fused to metal.

When there are no teeth on one side of the gap, a “cantilever” bridge may be used. This type is held in place by a brace on just one side of the gap.

When the gap to be bridged is in the front of the mouth, a “Maryland bonded bridge” may be used. This type may be called a “resin-bonded bridge.” It is made of plastic held in place by a metal frame that is bonded to the teeth on each side.

Dental pros make the three main types of bridges outside the mouth. Then, they place them in the mouth when done. They call this the indirect method. In some cases, though, dentists have been known to build a bridge inside a patient’s mouth using composite resin.

How are dental bridges made?

Your dentist will complete a dental restoration with a bridge in several steps. She does this over the course of several visits. First, the teeth that anchor both ends of the bridge must be prepared. These must be reduced in size a bit and re-shaped for the crowns to fit over them. How much the anchor teeth need to be changed depends on the type of material that will be used for the bridge.

During the same visit, your dentist will make a mold of your teeth. The dental lab will use this to make your bridge. You’ll receive a temporary bridge, too, which will help protect you while the lab does its work.

Even if everything feels perfect to you, your dentist may only temporarily cement the bridge in place for the first few weeks until she is certain it fits as it should.

At the next visit, your dentist will remove your temporary bridge. She will also check the fit of your permanent bridge and make adjustments as needed. She may send the bridge back to the lab to make sure it fits right. Even if everything feels perfect to you, your dentist may only temporarily cement the bridge in place for the first few weeks until she is certain it fits as it should.

How to care for your new dental bridge

A lot of work goes into a dental bridge. After the dust has cleared (okay – there is not really going to be any dust…), proper care is a must to protect your investment and keep your teeth healthy.

Home dental care with a bridge is not really that much different than without a bridge. Your new bridge will depend on the strength of surrounding teeth to remain workable. That means it’s as important as ever to brush and floss correctly and regularly. This will help you prevent gum disease or tooth decay in the teeth you still have.

It may be a little tricky to brush and floss with a bridge, but your dentist or dental hygienist will be happy to show you the best way to keep your smile dazzling.

Do you already have a dental bridge? How has it changed your life for the better? Let us know in the comment section below!

Share a smile with us! Follow us on Twitterlike us on Facebook, or add us to Google+.

To learn about other dental technologies, be sure to check out our resources section.