Finding the Right Dentist

The numbers on American oral care are staggering. Thirty two percent of Americans haven’t visited their dentist in the last year and a half. That number is continually on the rise. Maybe it is because we are afraid to go to the dentist, or maybe because people just don’t know how to find the right dentist for themselves.

Posted on | Jonathan B. Levine, DMD | Comments ()

The numbers on American oral care are staggering. Thirty two percent of Americans haven’t visited their dentist in the last year and a half. That number is continually on the rise. Maybe it is because we are afraid to go to the dentist, or maybe because people just don’t know how to find the right dentist for themselves. 

Going to the dentist should not be the anxiety-filled experience you may have had as a child, squeezing your eyes shut, gripping the chair with all your might, and silently making a pact with God that you’d never eat candy again if just once they didn’t find any cavities. You are not a kid anymore and when it comes to your smile, that part of your body that wins and influences people you don’t want to offer it up to just any dentist.  You have a say in whether your dental appointment will be a positive or negative experience.  All it takes is following a few simple steps.

Step 1: Square One
Ask for recommendations: Talk to people who have had the kind of dentistry you require. How do you know who to ask? That’s easy. Ask anyone whose smile you admire. If they respond, “This is my natural smile!” compliment them, then move onto the next person. Keep asking until you eventually hit someone whose natural-looking smile is not the smile they were born with. It is a positive if the dentist recommended to you does some teaching, but not more than 1 to 2 days a week. When it comes to dental work, you want one who’s more involved in clinical practice than academics. Do not call any 800 numbers; dentists pay to get on these phone lists.  The only ones recommending them are themselves.

Step 2: Narrowing Your Search
Once you get the names of some dentists, call their offices and conduct a phone interview with one. Without exception, ask the following 3 questions:

  1. Does he/she work with different specialists? If they say no, move onto the next name on your list. No dental professional is good at every specialty. You want someone who works with a team of specialists to handle the different divisions of dentistry.
  2. Can you tell me some of the names of the specialists she usually works with? You should absolutely ask this question, then check on the specialists name as well.
  3. Does she have hygienists? Who is doing the cleaning? If the receptionist says that the dentist is doing the cleaning, say thank you and hang up again.  Cleaning is a hygienist’s specialty.

Step 3: Evaluating a Visit
Upon your first visit to a new dentist, schedule a consultation only, with no dental work.  Remember, you should be interviewing the dentist as much as the dentist is interviewing you.  Don’t just ask questions, but observe the surroundings. Ask to see photographs of patients who have had similar conditions. And make sure there is a dedicated sterilization area.

Finally, don’t underestimate the value of office aesthetics. Make sure to ask yourself: Do the office, examining rooms, staff, and environment seem dedicated to making patients comfortable?

Blog written by Jonathan B. Levine, DMD
Dr. Jonathan B. Levine is a world-renowned dentist and prosthodontist recognized as an authority on restorative dentistry. He's...