How Do You Find the Best Dentist?
You’ve had a problem with your teeth for a while, and you’ve been wanting to get it fixed. Now you’ve learned about a procedure (or maybe several) that can do exactly what you need to get your perfect smile. Your next step is to choose the dentist who will perform your procedure. Of course, you want the very best dentist around. But with thousands of dentists in practice, how can you possibly know who to choose?
Don’t worry; you’re not alone. Here at Doctor Review, helping you choose the right provider for your elective health procedure is one of our specialties. Here are a few tips to make sure you’re choosing the best dentist for your procedure.
Things to Look For in a Dentist
You may have noticed that unlike medical doctors, who always have the degree MD, dentists can have one of two different degrees: DMD and DDS. Roughly translated, DDS means Doctor of Dental Surgery and DMD means Doctor of Medical Dentistry. So what does that mean? That only a DDS can do surgical procedures? That only a DMD can prescribe pain relievers and sedatives?
Luckily, it’s not that complicated. The DDS/DMD separation is a distinction without a difference. The two degrees mean exactly the same thing; the difference is historical. Dentistry was originally a branch of surgery, and the first professionals to develop dental procedures were surgeons. So when training programs were developed, the title given was DDS. Later, when Harvard started its dentistry program, it decided to grant the degree DMD for the first time. No change in the training offered; it just wanted to distinguish its graduates. Some dental schools wanted to be like Harvard and followed suit; others stuck with tradition and kept granting DDS degrees.
So when you’re looking for a dentist, don’t worry about whether there’s a DDS or a DMD after his or her name. Either type of dentist has the proper training to perform excellent dental care.
If you’re thinking about having a particular procedure, you may be thinking about choosing a dentist who specializes in that type of dentistry. For instance, because bonding is a cosmetic procedure, you may be thinking about seeking out one of the many dentists who say that they practice “cosmetic dentistry” to perform your dental bonding. Good idea?
It really depends on the situation. There are nine specialties recognized by the American Dental Association, and not all of them are ones you’re likely to seek out (such as public health, pathology, or radiology). If you’re looking to have a procedure to straighten your teeth (such as braces or Invisalign), then you do want a specialist in this area, called an orthodontist. Someone saying that they’re an orthodontist must have specialty training in this area. Similarly, for a surgical procedure like placement of implants or jaw realignment surgery, you might seek an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, who also has specialty training.
However, cosmetic dentistry and restorative dentistry are not among the recognized specialties. In fact, nearly all dentistry is cosmetic and restorative, if you think about it. So don’t let someone calling themselves a “cosmetic dentist” sway your decision.
Recent Training and Experience
What you really want is information on how often this dentist has done the particular procedure you’re considering, or whether they’ve recently had continuing education to learn new techniques. If you’re calling the front desk as a potential new patient, you may be able to ask about this information. Sometimes, it’s available on the dentist’s website. You may need to have a consultation and ask directly; many dental offices offer complimentary consultations. This information is far more valuable in terms of determining whether the dentist can perform the procedure you’re seeking at a high quality.
It may also be important to you to know whether or not the dentist offers Sedation Dentistry as part of his or her practice. Not all dentists choose to offer sedation, or are qualified to do so. If you feel anxious about dental procedures, and you would like to have sedation as an option, then you should seek a dentist who offers Sedation Dentistry.
While you do want someone who’s experienced, it’s at least as important to find a dentist with whom you feel comfortable, who listens to you, tries to understand your goals, and answers your questions. If your dentist doesn’t take the time to connect with you in this way, then you could end up making choices that you later regret, because they really weren’t right for you. If you feel like your dentist is trying to “sell” you, constantly pushing another procedure, you can always seek a second opinion before you proceed, or look for a new dentist.
You also want a dentist who helps you feel calm, rather than heightening your anxiety. Sometimes, this can make dental sedation unnecessary. And it certainly makes dental care more pleasant.
What About the Money?
It’s important not to let cost be the only factor in your decision. Simply choosing the cheapest dental care you can find is likely to lead to unsatisfying outcomes, and possibly to much larger expenditures down the road to fix the problems that were caused. However, since dental insurance usually only pays part of the cost of dental care, and many people don’t even have dental insurance, the balance in your bank account might force you to consider cost as part of your decision. You can sometimes simply ask the front desk staff to give you estimated prices on a variety of procedures, or you can have a consultation to get a more accurate estimate. Just keep in mind that if you don’t have the money you need to pay the provider you want, financing your procedure is an option.
Ask For a Little Help From Your Friends
Referrals from friends and family, especially if they’ve had the particular procedure you’re considering, can be especially valuable. You might not know who’s had dental work recently, because if it’s done well, then it looks natural! So you might just put it out there: “I’m looking for a great dentist in my area, do you know of anyone?” You might find the perfect fit this way. You can also search on Doctor Review to read reviews of dentists in your area. This is a great way to broaden your search and make sure you’re considering all the options, and to get advice from people who’ve had exactly the procedure you’re seeking.
So Who’s the Best Dentist?
The best dentist is the one who offers all of the factors above — training and experience in the procedure you’re considering (possibly, but not necessarily, including specialty training), the options you want (such as sedation), a caring and compassionate manner, and great results. If you want to feel good about your smile, it starts with feeling good about your dentist!