Dental care should never be an afterthought. How you take care of your teeth on a day-to-day basis, including brushing and flossing, is essential to the health of your mouth. However, these habits can only go so far on their own. For optimal dental health, you should get your teeth professionally cleaned and examined every six months. With routine visits, your dentist also establishes a record of your dental health history - including everything from cavities to concerning symptoms that may need to be investigated further.
Whether you're new to an area and need a dental provider, or you're on the search for a new dentist, base your research around the following factors.
Dental providers abound, and you may be searching for someone close by whose hours fit into your schedule or who specializes in a particular discipline or condition. At this stage, base your search around:
- Where the dentist is located in relation to your home or workplace.
- Their operating hours and how they line up with your schedule.
- Whether they take your dental insurance, and if the provider is within your network.
- If they're a member of the American Dental Association®.
- Communication - particularly whether they offer interpreting services, if you need them.
- Whether they specialize in a particular discipline, be it having a periodontist on staff or specializing in cosmetic procedures.
Narrowing Down Your Search
With any combination of the above parameters in place, start to explore and get to know dentists in detail based on the following:
- Reviews - be it by word of mouth, from family and friends, from your doctor or through social media.
- If they accommodate patients with limited access to or no dental insurance.
- The dentist's background, including where they went to dental school, their years in practice, if they've received training for your specific dental condition and how they keep their skills and knowledge up to date, including through conferences and continuing education.
- Their approach to preventative dentistry and their resources and approach for restorative and more invasive procedures.
- If they use anesthesia for procedures, and the type they're certified to administer.
- If and how they provide afterhours or emergency dental care.
- How they work with patients for larger, higher-cost procedures, including estimations and payment plan options.
- How they address missed appointments.
- If the facility provides access for patients with disabilities.
To find this information, start with the dentist's website. However, realize that you might not be able to find everything. Instead, you may need to reach out to your state dental society or learn more through the ADA's website.
Schedule a Visit or Consultation
Once you've decided on a dentist to try, you're advised to schedule an appointment. Be ready to observe or ask questions about the following:
- If the dentist provides tips about caring for your teeth, and what their recommendations are.
- How the office handles your insurance, including copayments and payment plans.
- How your dental history will be assessed and saved, including for future appointments.
- The quality of the office, including cleanliness and organization from the waiting room to the operatory and the types of protective gear staff use.
- How helpful staff are at answering your questions, be it appointment or insurance related.
Searching for a dentist near you? Get started with izzo®'s helpful Find a Dentist tool.