According to research from Psychology Today, almost 70% of adults have a fear of going to the dentist. Maybe it is the drills and needles, or holding your mouth open for what seems like an ungodly amount of time that sparks the fear. Or maybe, it is the financial costs associated with dental care. For many people with health and dental insurance, dental insurance only covers a fraction of the costs of procedures. This is the number one reason that many people endure toothaches and bad teeth for so long rather than having them fixed.
Yet, as you may know – there comes a time when you cannot ignore the toothache, perhaps one of the most painful experiences known to mankind – any longer. Then, you have to choose a dentist. But which one? Do you trust your friends or family member’s recommendations? Do you choose the dentist closest to you, or the first one that can work you in? Obviously, it would be nice to find a dental office that you love and trust, who uses the latest technology as to reduce discomfort and pain, and that you can afford. Suffice it to say, there are innumerous things to consider when choosing a dentist for yourself and your family. Unfortunately, according to the when most people are looking for a dentist, they are in dire straits with some sort of dental problem – and don’t take enough time to do the research beforehand.
The American Dental Association, which is the leading dental professional organization in the United States, offers some advice for those of you trying to find a dentist.
The first thing to look for in the United States is to find a dentist that is certified with the ADA. Like most professional organizations, dentists who register and comply with the ADA standards are kept up to date and must meet a certain amount of annual hours of classes. They are also responsible for following certain ethical standards and codes of conduct. The good news is that 7 out of 10 dentists are registered and in compliance with the ADA. You can check out www.ada.org for a full list of dentists that are registered with the ADA.
The next thing that you should do is make sure that the dentist of your choosing uses your insurance. Dental procedures are not cheap, and going out of network – or choosing a dentist that doesn’t accept your insurance can incur you thousands of dollars in dental expenses. Call the office, and let them know what kind of insurance that you have and see if they accept it. You can likely also look the dentist up on the website that serves your dental insurance information to see if they are listed. Remember, that many insurance plans differ and will charge different amounts, or use a different payment schedule if they are ‘out of network.’
If you need a lot of work done, and know that you will have to come out of pocket for some of the expenses, see if the dental office offers payment plans. Some do, and some expect full payment at the time of service.
Ask your friends and family for recommendations. Often times the best way to find a compassionate dentist is to find someone recommended. This way, you can get a general idea about how their office is run, how nice the staff is, and what you can expect during the visit. While your sister may love a dentist and you decide he or she is not your ‘cup of tea’ asking friends and family members is a good place to start. You could even put a shout out on Facebook, asking any of your FB friends for recommendations and why they like (or dislike) a particular dentist.
When you have narrowed your choices down, make sure that you do a quick check online to make sure that they don’t have complaints against them, or compliance problems. Remember, that not everything you read in these forums online are going to be true, but if you find numerous complaints about one dentist, you may choose another dentist.
Another important thing is to find out the office hours, and the availability of scheduling for you. All dentists have different schedules and many are closed on either Mondays or Fridays. You also may find some dentists that have extended operating hours during the week (perfect if you work) and that are open on Saturdays. Another thing to ask, is how quickly they can work patients in. Most often, when you NEED a dentist you need to be seen ASAP. Having to wait 2-3 weeks to get an appointment will not be helpful, so be sure to ask about their emergency procedures.
The location of the office is important as well. Obviously, finding an office that is convenient to you makes access easier and more convenient for YOU.
If you are a general dental coward (which most of us are) be sure to ask about what kind of anesthesia they use. Some dentists no longer use ‘laughing gas,’ and may have other means of making you comfortable during your visit.
Last but not least, you should make an assessment for yourself by visiting the office. What is your first impression? Is the office clean? Do the staff members seem to be well kept and wearing gloves at all times? Don’t be afraid to ask the staff what their method for cleaning the office and the equipment is. Is their plastic covering the chairs used for dental procedures? If you don’t know, don’t be afraid to ask.
When you meet the dentist, you should also make sure that you are comfortable with him or her. They should be personable, and should be willing and able to explain all the procedures that they use and your treatment plan during your meeting. If you have any sense that you don’t like the dentist, then remember that there are thousands of other dentists to choose from. In the end, a dentist is providing you with a service, one which you will be paying them for, and you deserve to have the opportunity to be picky.