By: Dr. Greg Grobmyer
Choosing a dentist for you and your family is an important decision. You are putting your health, your comfort, your appearance, and more into the hands of another person, so you need to be sure it is the RIGHT person!
If I needed my roof replaced, I’d see who my contractor friend uses as a roofer. If I needed my car fixed, I’d ask my friend who rebuilds engines who they recommend. So, who does a dentist trust with their dental care? And what do THEY look for in a dentist?
Dental Care for Dentists
I was a practicing dentist for over a decade before losing feeling in my fingertips. Cancer and chemotherapy have nasty side effects, and numb fingers was one of mine.
Since no one wants to go to a dentist that constantly drops things, I found a new career in consulting and writing about dentistry. I saw my former partners for my dental work for many years, but when life circumstances had me move to a new city, I had to find a new dentist.
What to Look for in a Dental Provider
Often, people just look for whichever dentist is closest to their home or work. This can often be a very bad idea. If you needed brain surgery, would you just bop down to Bob’s House of Discount Brain Surgery, just because it was near the house?
Dental care isn’t brain surgery, but it can have serious consequences which affect your whole-body health. I want a dentist that does high-quality work, not just the cheapest available or the closest to me.
Here are some insider tips I used to locate my new dentist.
Like most people, I first searched online to find dentists with offices near me. I used Google, but dental insurance and directory sites like 1-800-DENTIST are good ways to see who’s practicing in your area.
Once I had a short list to start with, my research really began. Most quality dental offices have a website that can give you a lot of information about their practice. Many include introductions to the dentist and staff, an office tour, and even a showcase of the technology they use.
When reviewing a website, I look for where the dentist went to school and how many years they have been in practice. I also love to see videos of them talking so I can get a sense of their personality and communication style.
Many practice websites offer a teledentistry consult option. You can set up a time to speak to the dentist or dental team by video chat before physically visiting their office. This allows you to get to know them, express your concerns, and get an idea of what to expect.
You should also find basic information like location, hours, and contact information on the practice website. Testimonials from existing patients are also great to see! Google, Facebook, and Yelp reviews may be worth looking at as well.
When it comes to online reviews, I trust them to a point. I've found people are much more likely to leave a bad review than they are to leave a good one, unless the reviews are specifically solicited by the dentist. Bad reviews with replies and follow up are actually a good sign. Bad reviews sitting ignored with no response are not.
Before and After Photos
Most great dentists have before and after photos of cases they have done on their website. I look for simple cosmetic photos, like whitening and bonding, but I also want to see photos of mouths that were in really bad shape that the dentist restored. If they can take a mouth with terrible teeth and make them beautiful, they are probably able to handle most challenges.
If a dentist doesn’t have a fancy website, that doesn’t make them a bad dentist. It just means you have to work a little harder to see if they meet your expectations. Asking questions on the phone helps, but nothing beats an in person visit to the office.
Most offices will be happy to schedule you some time to take a tour of the office and meet with the dentist. You can discuss your wants and needs and make sure you get a good feeling from them. This is especially important if you have had dental anxiety. Talking to the dentist, either in office or using teledentistry, can let them know your concerns and see how they plan to address them.
Also be sure the rest of the dental team seem happy, friendly, and willing to help you. You will be interacting with them as much as (if not more than) the dentist, so you want to be sure you feel at ease in the office. The attitude of the team can also tell you a lot about how the dentist is to work with!
I want to find an office that uses up –to-date technology and materials, so I look for those things in the office. See if the practice offers digital x-rays (even 3D scanning technology), use of lasers, cameras that show you around your mouth, and maybe even in-house milling of crowns. Pay attention to whether the equipment in the office looks modern or if it looks outdated.
Ask the dentist about his continuing education classes or advanced studies. You want a provider who is staying on top of the latest procedures.
The first complete exam will let you know a lot about the dentist before committing to any work. They should take a full series of x-rays, not just two or four. You should have a series of pictures that show every tooth and maybe an image that shows your jaw and jaw joints.
When the dentist does a look around in your mouth, be sure they are gentle. See if they check your TMJ, having you open and close. I also want my dentist to do an oral cancer screening every time they do an exam, checking the sides of my tongue, my lips and cheeks, and even feeling my lymph nodes on my neck.
When they discuss the treatment you may need, be sure that they show you pictures and explain why it is needed. They should take time to walk you through the steps of treatment and explain the time and costs with each step. They should also be able to offer financing options to fit with your budget.
After checking out a few offices around my area, I found one I really like. It wasn’t the closest to me, but not far away. They are up to date, friendly, and thorough. I feel like I am being taken care of by people who are genuinely concerned for my health.
Now if they could just do something about these numb fingers…