You wouldn’t choose a boyfriend out of the phonebook. Choosing your dentist shouldn’t be a rash decision either.
It is common for individuals or families to stick with the same dental office for years or even decades. Dentists are privy to your health history and have an up close and personal look at your oral health and hygiene. With these intimate factors in mind, and the financial investment involved in dental care, it’s a decision worth taking seriously.
Here are 3 steps we have found that will help guide you to find the perfect “Dr. Right”.
1.) Ask yourself some questions:
What are your dental needs?
Dentists come in all varieties; general/family dentist, pediatric dentists, orthodontists, oral surgeons, prosthodontists, etc. However not all branches of dentistry will be relevant to you. The type of office you seek out should attend to your current and foreseeable needs.
Most people’s needs will be cleanings and maintenance, so sticking with a general dentist who may, or may not have other specialties will be sufficient. Those with children will need to decide if they want them to see a pediatric dentist or if all of them will see the same family dentist. Some family dentists do put on braces but, often those needing them will need to see an orthodontist.
If you have complex needs a general or family dentist will refer you to an oral surgeon, periodontist, or other specialist, whilst still coordinating your care.
What is your priority, cost, quality or convenience?
There are around 4,000 practicing dentists in Washington State alone. Given the vast variety of options in most areas, evaluating the combination of your dental needs and personal lifestyle will help you focus your search.
Someone who values the low cost options will have basic dental needs, and will not be heavily focused on aesthetics. Keep an eye out for offices that advertise new patient specials. Generally speaking, offices that are a part of a franchise often have lower fees. The trade off with lower cost offices is that often, in order to keep low overhead, they will sacrifice the quality of materials used, and hire staff that are less experienced.
On the flip side, the saying “you get what you pay for” is relevant when it comes to dentistry as well. If having the job done -and look- right with the best outcome is your number one goal at the end of the day, then a higher end, quality driven dentist is what you need. If the cosmetic side of dentistry is important to you, these types of dentists are what you want to be searching for. However, some higher end dentists don’t take insurance, so you will need to be prepared to pay these heftier rates out of pocket.
Many patients just need whatever office will fit into their busy life. A convenience driven patient will look for a dental office that is closest to their home, work, or kid’s school. Or they may search for offices that offer specific office hours to meet a complicated schedule. They are willing to sacrifice on quality or cost value in order to make keeping up with dental care more practical. In this case, beginning your search via location or hours is the best place to start.
In reality most of us are looking for some combination of 2 or all 3 of these. However, determining what is most important to you in the long run is paramount to narrowing the qualities that you will use as a lens for the next step in this process.
2.) Gather your options:
Now that you have found a starting point in your search, you can gather some recommendations to sift through. The best way to get an accurate review on a dental office is to ask those who have experienced them.
Ask friends who have similar needs
Now asking for recommendations on facebook is admittedly a bit of a grab bag. That’s why determining your focus first is important. Instead of asking social media or friends and family at large, be specific about who, or how you ask.
The recommendations from your fellow parents will likely differ from those you get from your grandma or your co-workers.
Be specific. Asking something like, “Those who have had veneers or other cosmetic work done, who did you use? How was your experience with them?” is more targeted. Or, for example, finding someone who you know just had to put braces on themselves or their child, and asking who they used, and if it was a good experience. Google has options to search within a specific mile radius and advanced options to search for targeted days or hours businesses are open.
Ask other dental professionals.
If you really want to get an accurate referral, ask those who are in the dental field. Do you have a friend or family member who works in a dental office? Ask them who would be a fit good for you!
Here at Whatcom Dental Lab, we have had the privilege to work with, or at least become familiar with, most of the dentists in the area. We are always happy to have a conversation and help give you a few options to start with. If you are not in our area, look up some dental labs near you, and give them a call.
3.) Choose the perfect fit:
By this point you have narrowed it down to only a handful of options. Now is the time to focus on the details.
Speed date them.
Please don’t actually try and date your dentist, but do try and call the front desk and ask the questions that are important to you.
Questions you can ask are “How does the dentist handle patients with dental anxiety?”, or, “How far in advance do I need to book appointments?”. You can get more details on insurance, billing procedures, or payment plans.
If the practice has more than one doctor you can work on determining which one would mesh best with your needs. Between their website and calling the front desk, you should be able to gather enough information to get a feel for them.
Get a second opinion.
If the dentist you choose to visit still doesn’t feel like the right fit, listen to your gut and try again with another practice. Dentists have different communication and practice styles, so there is no harm in getting a second opinion before moving forward with your care.
When it comes down to it, your dentist helps shape your smile. Your smile affects your confidence. We want you to smile proud, and that means picking the perfect dentist for you or your family.