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.

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?

Your Parent Has Dementia: What to Talk to Their Doctor About

Make sure all their doctors are aware of all the medications she is taking.

Q: My mom is 94 and has dementia. She is taking a whole medicine cabinet-full of medications and I think they actually make her fuzzier. How should I talk to her various doctors about what she is taking and if she can get off some of the meds? — Gary R., Denver, Colorado

A: Many dementia patients are taking what docs call a "polypharmacy" — three or more medications that affect their central nervous system. And we really don't know how that mixture truly affects each individual person.

A new study in JAMA Network that looked at more than 1 million Medicare patients found almost 14% of them were taking a potentially harmful mix of antidepressants, antipsychotics, antiepileptics, benzodiazepines such as Valium and Ativan, nonbenzodiazepine benzodiazepine receptor agonist hypnotics such as Ambien or Sonata, and opioids. And almost a third of those folks were taking five or more such medications. The most common medication combination included an antidepressant, an antiepileptic, and an antipsychotic. Gabapentin was the most common medication — often for off-label uses, such as to ease chronic pain or treat psychiatric disorders, according to the researchers from the University of Michigan.

Keep Reading Show less