Finding the right dentist can seem like an overwhelming task, but it gets a lot easier once you know where to look to find good candidates, what to look for when comparing them and finally what questions to ask to determine which best fits your needs and situation.
First of all, you need to determine what specialty of dental professional you need. Since you’re reading this, it’s probably safe to assume that you’re looking for someone who can perform an implant procedure in addition to installing the abutment and crown. Trained and certified general dentists, prosthodontists, oral/maxillofacial surgeons and periodontists can all perform the surgery, but certain additional procedures such as bone grafts and sinus augmentations might require the expertise of a specialist.
Overall, a quality dentist has a good reputation in their community, is honest with their patients about their dental health, discusses costs upfront and is knowledgeable and willing to answer any questions that they’re asked. Be sure to follow these steps to find one before a toothache or other dental emergency pops up.
How to Find One
- The best way to start your search for a great dentist is by asking your friends, family, colleagues or co-workers for recommendations. Those who are pleased with the work of their dental surgeon will be happy to refer you or at least tell you their thoughts.
- Your pharmacist or family doctor can be another excellent source of recommendations (they have to go to the dentist’s too!).
- Contact your state/local dental association. The American Dental Association (ADA) has a list of dental societies on their website at www.ada.org.
- If you’re moving, ask your current dentist to refer you to someone in your new area
- If the previous methods don’t work out, you can search for dentists in your area online.
At this point you should have a list of several good dentists to choose from. The next step is to call and/or visit each one in order to narrow down your search, first through a new patient consultation or “meet and greet” and then an actual appointment. The more questions you ask and research you do increases the likelihood of selecting the one that best fits your needs and preferences the first time around.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Dentist
The initial consultation can only reveal so much, so an actual appointment should be scheduled to find out about the dentist’s work and methods. The following are questions to ask yourself and/or the dentist during an appointment:
Questions to Ask Them
- How long has the dentist been in business?
- Do they have the proper qualifications? Are they a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD)? Contact your local dental society to confirm if necessary.
- Where did they receive their education and training?
- How much experience do they have with the procedure(s) you require?
- How do they approach implant dentistry? What types of implants and procedures do they use?
- What options are available to you in regards to the procedure and materials used?
- How often do they attend continuing education courses and conferences?
- What types of anesthesia do they offer that they are they certified to use?
- Do they offer amenities such as heating pads, TV or music?
- What insurance plans/companies do they accept?
- What methods of payment do they accept?
- Do they offer payment plans?
- Do they provide care for both adults and children (if you have kids)? If so, is the environment kid-friendly (games, toys, books, etc.)?
- What emergency care services do they provide? Are they available after hours and on weekends?
- What is their referral procedure when they cannot provide adequate treatment for a particular surgery or procedure? How well do they know the professional they are referring you to?
- What do they typically charge for single and full-mouth dental implants? What procedures and supplies do these quoted prices include? Compare these numbers to the cost data we have collected.
- Do they have before and after photos of their previous dental implant patients? Bring an after photo of a patient who was in a similar situation to show the sort of result you expect.
- How long will the procedure take? Will it look natural? Will there be multiple sessions? What if the treatment is a failure?
Questions to Ask Yourself
- Are their location and hours of operation convenient? Do they work with your schedule?
- Are the dentist and admin staff willing to answer your questions?
- Are they friendly? Do they make your feel comfortable? Do you feel like you could build a good long-term relationship with them?
- Does the office and the equipment look neat, orderly and clean?
- Does their technology and equipment look relatively new? Outdated equipment can point to the use of outdated and more risky procedures.
- Do they wear gloves and other personal protection equipment while providing treatment?
- Does the dentist ask questions to learn more about your situation and take notes on their findings?
- How well do they explain your oral health situation, the treatments you require and the procedures that will be done? Do they communicate in simple terms or confusing/technical jargon?
- Do they discuss both the benefits of the procedure and the possible side effects or problems?
- Did they thoroughly examine your mouth, gums and teeth?
- Was your dental and medical history recorded and filed?
Note: You should contact your insurance company and determine whether they provide full or partial coverage before accepting any major dental procedure. It is important to know what procedures are covered by your insurance plan so that you are not surprised by the final cost if any additional surgeries are performed.
Lastly, we highly advise not selecting the dentist that offers the lowest prices. You typically get what you pay for and it’s not worth risking your oral health to save a few bucks. Excessive advertising and exaggerated promises should also be flags to proceed with caution.
Before you allow a surgeon to start pulling teeth and drilling in to your jawbone, you need to make sure you can trust them to do a good job. The extensive list of factors to consider above might seem like overkill, but finding a good dentist can be tough (especially in certain areas). The more work and research you do now, the safer your dental health will be in the long term.