The 411 You Need to Choose Your Dentist


One of the most crucial relationships in one’s life is the personalized relationship one shares with his or her dentist. As it should be everyone’s lifetime commitment to take excellent care of their teeth, choosing the right dentist for your dental needs is extremely critical. This simplified article may be useful in helping you narrow down your choice of your dental health care provider.

All general dentists that practice in the United States should have a DDS or DMD degree with an active state dental license to practice in the state offering that license. The DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery) and DMD (Doctor of Dental Medicine) are the same degrees. The education is the same. Majority of dental schools award the DDS degree; however, some award a DMD degree. Apart from acquiring this dental degree, most dentists also attend regular continuing education courses to keep abreast of the modern techniques and developments in dentistry. Most dentists have a brief biography about their education, training and experience that their current and future patients can read, in order to get to know more about them. The dental office staff may also provide such information.

Sometimes choosing your dentist could be very much like choosing your medical doctor or your car mechanic. You simply ask for good recommendations. If you are new to the city or area, you could ask your neighbor, co-worker, family or a friend. Some of my patients have their friends or family accompany them to their appointment so the others can see the dental office and meet me personally to make an informed choice. You could also ask your medical doctor, family physician or local pharmacist. If you're moving out of city or state, you could ask your current dentist to make a recommendation. Sometimes, your local Chamber of Commerce or the local or state dental society could carry the pertinent information. Some people call their insurance providers and ask for names of dentists accepting that insurance.

One of the first things I look for personally, when selecting a medical doctor, is if their office is clean, neat and orderly. The same should apply to a dental office.

My medical doctors are very personable people. Whenever I am in their office for an appointment, I feel like I am genuinely taken care of. And, as a dentist, when I meet my patients, be it for the first time or at every appointment, I definitely like for them to feel that my staff and I enjoy taking great care of them. The dentist-patient relationship is a shared responsibility. It is important to make sure that you and your dentist understand each other and are on the same page where your treatment recommendation is concerned. Treatment recommendations may involve the ideal treatment that would solve the problem as well as alternate treatments available that too may solve the problem. Discuss your treatment recommendation in detail with your dentist. If you want to prioritize your recommended treatment, ask your dentist for guidance. Your dentist should also be able to guide you with techniques that will help you solve your current and prevent future dental health problems.

I always maintain that a happy and caring dental office results in happy and satisfied patients. The demeanor of the dental office staff is important. They should be caring in their approach. The office manager and the person presenting the treatment finances to you should have good knowledge of fees and insurance. Like me, many of you probably dislike receiving shocking bills in the mail. So, make sure you are informed in detail about the fees and payment before your treatment is scheduled. Always check with your dental office before your appointment to see if your dentist’s office is still accepting your insurance. Ask about any payment or financial plans that the office may accept.

If you do not understand any part of the information provided, either regarding the treatment recommended by your dentist, or regarding your fees and payment presented by the office staff, do not hesitate to ask questions.

Check with your dental office to see if their hours of operation are convenient and can work with your schedule. Some dental offices may offer early, late or Saturday hours. You could also inquire how the dental office handles after office emergency care. Some offices, like mine, have an emergency call service that will page or call the dentist.

It is important to take great care of one’s teeth and good professional dental care is part of that. If you are in disagreement with your dentist regarding treatment recommendation despite detailed discussion, do not hesitate to get a second opinion. It is important to not neglect the care that your teeth need.

I know many of my patients who have traveled distances to have their dental needs taken care of by me and I know that I travel quite a distance to see my physician. This is because of the establishment of mutual trust. Dentistry has come a long way. Although bad dental experiences may make one afraid and hesitate to seek dental care, there are currently many choices of excellent dentists. As I sometimes tell my patients, “you may choose to fire your dentist, but never fire your teeth”.

Take great care of your pearly whites and they will keep you smiling for life!    Wishing you all a very dentally and generally healthy 2013!


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