How to Choose a Dentist
Selecting a dentist in Plymouth, MN that will meet your needs and expectations is an important decision that merits careful consideration.
So you have just moved to a new part of town and trying to familiarize yourself with your new location. Where do you get your groceries? Where do you fill up for gas? Where is the local health club? These are some of the questions you may be asking yourself. It’s important as you become adjusted to new surroundings that you know where to go to take care of your daily activities. It only makes sense that you will also be looking to create professional relationships to help with other areas of your life like a good mechanic for your car, schools for the children or doctors for your healthcare.
One decision that should pop up on your list is choosing a dentist. While it makes sense and is easy enough to put on a list, how does one go about choosing a dentist? Here are some thoughts and key questions that you should ask when choosing who will provide your dental services. Primarily, there is a good reason to not wait too long before starting your search.
One decision that should pop up on your list is choosing a dentist. While it makes sense and is easy enough to put on a list, how does one go about choosing a dentist? Here are some thoughts and key questions that you should ask when choosing your new dentist. Primarily, there is a good reason to not wait too long before starting your search.
7 QUESTIONS PEOPLE ASK BEFORE CHOOSING A DENTIST
1) Why is it Important Find a Local Dentist Sooner Vs Later?
I say that because most of the time finding a dentist isn’t an immediate need. Since we need to eat every day it makes sense that we would get going on finding a great grocery store right away. Most of us go to our dentist once every 6 months.
Well just imagine this. You have lived in your new neighborhood 2 months, 3 months or go ahead and pick some other time frame. You suddenly wake up in the middle of the evening with a bad toothache. Now you have an emergency. Who do you call? It can be difficult to find a dentist on short notice and the last thing you want is to be calling around, trying to find help during an emergent situation.
Another reason to not wait on your search is that if you wait to seek out a dentist until you have an emergency you will be at higher risk of choosing one that may not be the best fit for you. Thinking about that grocery store again, a general rule of thumb is that you should not go shopping when you are hungry. It is then that you are more prone to making poor choices and loading up your grocery cart with a lot of things you do not need. The same can happen when you are choosing a dentist. When you are in pain is never a great time to make an important decision about who to trust your care to. If you wait until you have an emergency you are liable to take whoever you can and not necessarily the best one for you. Having an established relationship can take the stress off of an already uncomfortable situation.
Poor choices can have a lasting impact so do yourself a favor and start looking for that new dentist early and avoid trying to pick when you are in an emergent situation.
Now that I have hopefully driven it home to look for a new dentist when you are not in an emergent situation, let’s look at the next questions that many ask.
2) Where do I start my Search for a Dentist?
Well, I believe the best place to start is by asking your friends or co-workers where they go and are they happy with their dentist? People will gladly share their experiences good or bad so take note. If you hear a certain dentist or office mentioned a couple of times in a negative light, cross them off your list. Conversely, if you hear a particular office or dentist talked about in a very positive manner it may be worthwhile to jot that name down and give them a look.
3) What Should I Look for on a Dentist Website?
If you were able to get a couple of references for a new dentist maybe the next step is to take a look on the internet. Do they have an appealing and informational website? While a website itself is not necessarily a determinate on the quality of the dentist it should evoke a sense of quality in it. A website should also provide solutions and answers. You want your dentist to take pride in all their efforts, and a nice website is usually a reflection of the quality they value in all their work.
4) Can I Trust Online Reviews?
As long as you are on the internet are you able to read any reviews on the dentist? What is the general tone of the reviews? Hopefully favorable. You never expect anyone to have all 5-star reviews but hopefully, the overall score is 4.5 stars or above. Also, don’t hesitate to read some of the reviews. If you come across some negative reviews did the office respond? A thoughtful response is a good reflection of an office that cares enough to try to make things right when a patient didn’t have the experience that was hoped for. I have found that it speaks volumes about any business on how they respond to a customer, or patient in this case, who is not completely satisfied.
If you read through the website you can also pick up on many things. Are there photos of cases he or she completed? Take a look as it shows the artistry a dentist can do to make your treatment look beautiful and natural. Does the dentist do a variety of procedures? If they do a variety there is less likely that you will need to be referred to a specialist when you need treatment. Is there more than one dentist working at the location? More than one dentist is a benefit since your dentist will be gone from time to time at meetings, continuing education or vacation.
If they work with another dentist this dentist can see you in the event of an emergency when your dentist is out of town. Also, there will probably be a bio on the dentist speaking about his or her education, professional affiliations, and personal interests. If you see a lot of affiliations or the doctor has earned recognition for their passion for continuing education it is a signal that they desire to keep up with the latest dental trends. Dentistry has changed so much over the years it is important that your dentist has the desire to never stop learning so you can enjoy the benefits of the latest that dentistry has to offer. Now is also your time to look at the hours the dental office is open. Do they work for you?
Location should be a major factor for you when looking at a new dentist. Having a dental office with a convenient location is important. It makes it much more likely that you will make regular appointments if it is easy to get to your dental office. Regular cleanings and checkups have proven to be amazingly successful in the prevention of dental health issues. And again, in the event of that unfortunate emergency, you will be able to easily get to your dental office.
5. Do you have payment plans available?
This is another great question to ask your prospective dental office. Depending on your conditions, achieving dental health can become a significant investment. If you run into the need of significant dental care it is nice to know if your dental office offers payment plans. Every dental office has their own polices on payment expectations from their patients so some of the questions you may ask:
- Do you have payment plans available?
- If so, how long can they run and what are the interest rates?
- Are the payment plan run by the office or is there 3rd party financing? This is important because most offices will do short-term financing (3 months or less) in office but anything greater is typically run through a 3rd party. Be careful on these because they will have an interest free component, typically 6-12 months, but if you go outside the terms the interest you are charged can be very significant. Usually it will be 22% -28%.
- Are you able to make payment plans that extend longer than 12 months? Again, depending on the extent of your needs this may be good to know. Typically, anything greater than 12 months will be done through a 3rd party. The interest rate on those will vary but the dental office should be able to guide you on exploring this financing option.
6. What areas of dental surgery do you specialize in?
Knowing what kinds of procedures your future dental office does can be very helpful. Dentists have different skill levels and comfort levels on doing different procedures. For instance, you can ask:
All these questions will tell you that if you need treatment done outside of the more common fillings and crowns will it be able to be done by your new dentist or will you be sent to a specialist to have it done. Typically it is a benefit to you that your new doctor is comfortable in a variety of procedures. It is much more comfortable for you to go to one office to have treatment done by providers that you are familiar with rather than providers and an office that are not familiar to you.
7. Do you take x-rays when necessary?
X-Rays are an important diagnostic tool for dentists but since they expose you to radiation it is fair to find the doctor’s philosophy on x-rays. The answer you would like to hear is that “We take x-rays based on the needs of the individual patient.” Hopefully, you do not hear, “We take x-rays one time per year.” (Whether you need them or not!)
Time to Place a Call to a New Dentist
So far you have spoken to friends and co-workers, done online research and narrowed your search down. I believe the next step is to set an appointment to go in see the dental office, meet some of the people who work there and the dentist. There are several things you should pay attention to.
What to look for when scheduling an appointment with a new dentist:
- How were you treated on the phone? Was the person welcoming and helpful?
- How did the office look when you came in? Did it appear neat, clean and up-to-date? This is very important as the cleanliness may very well translate to the cleanliness you will find in the operatory. Also, an office that is not updated may tell you that the dentist is not interested in staying updated on the latest services, procedures or techniques.
- Were you warmly greeted by the staff? Were they so on top of it that they may actually know your name when you walk in? Do they appear to care?
Initial Meeting when Selecting a Dentist
You should now be able to meet your dentist and again, make some mental notes.
- Were you warmly greeted by the doctor?
- Were you left waiting or were you seen on time? Everything doesn’t always run on time but hopefully you were seen within 10 minutes of your appointed time.
- Did the dentist try to get to know you a little or did the talk go straight to your teeth? Social skills or bedside manner is important. Not taking the time to get to know a little something about you speaks about whether your dentist will look at you as person or a mouth with teeth.
- Did the dentist seem rushed? Dental offices are run with different philosophies. If the dentist focuses on the personal relationships along with the clinical exam you should not get the sense that the dentist is rushed. They should be able to focus on you as a person. Not only that you should sense that they WANT to focus on you as a person and genuinely want to get to know you past your teeth.
If the dentist is rushed it may mean that he or she is focused on seeing as many patients as possible on a given day. This leaves little time for anything beyond a doctor/patient relationship. That may be fine for some people but me… I want someone who cares. Dentistry goes beyond the mouth. There are so many interconnected facets between dental health and overall health. If your dentist has some sort of an idea about you as a person it can help guide the best recommendation for your dental health.
Knowing When to Trust Your Judgement
This point is probably the most important for me and it is completely subjective.
What does your “gut instinct” tell you after your first visit. Are you feeling good when you leave, like you were well taken care of and in a quality environment? Or, is your gut instinct telling you something was off? Perhaps the office didn’t feel quite right or you were not quite sure about the dentist. Obviously with the first “positive” feeling means that you have probably found your new dentist and dental office. The second negative feeling is a little tricky and again you should listen to your gut. If the feeling wasn’t too bad you may want to give the office and dentist one more chance. However, if the feeling is bad enough you will probably be better off leaving it at one visit to this particular office and start your search again. Usually, your gut instinct is correct. Follow it!
Finding a good and reputable dentist may take time.
Choosing healthcare providers is a very personal and important decision. Hopefully, this article has been helpful and given you some things to consider when you need to find a new dentist. There are many, many wonderful dentists and dental offices out there. The key is finding the one that matches your values and what you are looking for. Just take a little time and I’m certain you will find an office and dentist that you will see for many years. Happy researching!