If the thought of going to the dentist makes you anxious, you are in good company. But your dentist is your partner in oral health. Routine dental checkups and treatment by a dentist can help keep your teeth, mouth and gums healthy and prevent dental disease. And poor oral health can contribute to other health risks including cardiovascular disease. How do you find the best dentist who is right for you? Here are some important factors to keep in mind.
1. Get Referrals
Get started by creating a list of potential dentists. To do this, ask family, friends, and other healthcare providers for recommendations. Take the time to research the dentists’ credentials and experience on Healthgrades.com. As you narrow down your list, call each dentist’s office and ask for a consult appointment to meet and interview the dentist.
2. Research the Dentist’s Credentials
Board certification is one of the most important factors to consider when you are choosing a dentist. It tells you that the dentist has the necessary training, skills and experience to provide healthcare in general dentistry. Also confirm that the dentist has no history of malpractice claims or disciplinary actions. You can find the dentist’s medical school, training hospital, certifications, and malpractice and disciplinary history on Healthgrades.com and state websites.
3. Consider the Dentist’s Experience
When facing an oral health condition, experience matters. The more experience a dentist has with a condition or procedure, the better your results are likely to be. Additional training is essential for dental specialties like orthodontics and endodontics. Ask how many patients with your specific condition the dentist has treated. If you suffer from dental anxiety, ask the dentist about successful approaches he or she has used with other anxious patients. If you know you need a specific procedure, ask how many of the procedures the dentist has performed and find out about complication rates—complications the dentist has encountered as well as your own risk of complications.
4. Consider Gender
It’s important to feel comfortable with your dentist’s gender because you will need to openly discuss personal information. When it comes to certain types of dental care, your own gender is also an important consideration. And dentists are becoming more skilled in caring for women and men differently. Ask the dentist about his or her recent training and experience specifically related to your condition and your gender.
5. Ask About Telehealth Capabilities
Dentists can diagnose and treat some patients using telecommunications technology, including two-way video, smartphones, and email; it's called telehealth. Ask if the dentist offers telehealth capabilities. Telehealth doesn’t replace hands-on in-person office visits, but for many patients, it means fewer trips to the dentist’s office. Some conditions can be managed by sending symptoms and vital signs you collect at home and having a “virtual visit” with your provider. Telehealth can also be used for routine follow-ups and minor complaints too, making it a convenient option. Check to make sure your health insurance will pay for telehealth services.
6. Evaluate Communication Style
Choose a dentist with whom you are comfortable talking and who supports your information needs. When you first meet the dentist, ask a question and notice how he or she responds. Does he or she welcome your questions and answer them in ways that you can understand? Did you leave feeling rushed or engaged? Find a dentist who shows an interest in getting to know you, who will consider your treatment preferences, and who will respect your decision-making process.
7. Read Patient Reviews
Reading what other people have to say about a dentist can provide insight into how a dentist practices general dentistry, as well as how his or her dental practice is operated. Patient reviews typically reflect people's experience with scheduling appointments, wait times, office environment, and office staff friendliness. You can learn how well patients trust the dentist, how much time he or she spends with their patients, and how well he or she answers questions.
8. Know What Your Insurance Covers
Your dental insurance coverage is a practical matter. To receive the most dental insurance benefits and pay the least out-of-pocket for your care, you may need to choose a dentist who participates in your plan. You should still consider credentials, experience, outcomes, and hospital quality as you select a dentist from your plan.
Sarah Lewis is a pharmacist and a medical writer with over 25 years of experience in various areas of pharmacy practice. Sarah holds a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy degree from West Virginia University and a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from Massachusetts College of Pharmacy. She completed Pharmacy Practice Residency training at the University of Pittsburgh/VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System.
At Healthgrades, our Editorial Team works hard to develop complete, objective and meaningful health information to help people choose the right doctor, right hospital and right care. Our writers include physicians, pharmacists, and registered nurses with firsthand clinical experience. All condition, treatment and wellness content is medically reviewed by at least one medical professional ensuring the most accurate information possible. Learn more about our editorial process.
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.