Just as you wouldn't see any old mechanic to fix your beloved Jaguar, nor should you choose just any dentist to take care of your teeth. Your smile says a lot about you, and keeping it on top form should be a priority for everyone. But how can you make sure you're seeing the right person?
Most dentists will have before and after pictures on hand.
We are all different, and while we all need dentists who are highly trained and competent, someone who is right for one patient may not be suitable for another. While word of mouth is usually the best idea for finding a good dentist in your area, that alone should not suffice.
Here are our 7 top tips to choosing a dentist who's right for you:
- Learn about your dentist's experience and training, as well as clinical expertise. If you anticipate that a lot of work will need to be done in a specific area, see what the dentist can offer you, how familiar they are with the procedure and how often they have done it. Make sure beforehand that they can take care of most problems you may have, and not refer everything to another party.
- Check prices. If they seem outrageously low, there may be a reason. If they seem too high, think again: you don't want to put off necessary treatment because you can't afford it. See, also, what your dental insurance will cover, and ask whether your chosen dentist accepts your insurance plan. If not, you may have to start your search again from scratch!
- Learn how long your dentist has had the practice, and whether he or she has a satisfied customer list. If he or she has a long waiting list, or you have to wait weeks for an appointment, that may be indicative that you're onto a good thing. Then again, it may just add frustration when you need to book an emergency appointment yourself.
- If you plan on having extensive cosmetic dentistry carried out, ask if you can talk to previous patients - and/or see before and after photos. Quiz your dentist about the procedures you are interested in, and ask how many times he or she has performed them in the past. Make sure they are up-to-date with the latest advances, and that they stay on top of the game.
- Decide what's important to you, and see how your dentist can fit your needs. Do you prefer someone who can see you on weekends? Do you want a dentist who can treat your dental phobias with sedation before any major treatment? Would you prefer your dentist to use more modern tools, such as lasers, instead of scalpels? Do they have a TV on the ceiling, or provide iPods to use on-site?
- Ask your potential dentist about their referral process if you need specialized treatment. You may spent weeks searching for the right dentist, only to find they refer you to someone you don't rate. Chances are, however, that if they are a good dentist they'll refer you to someone on the same level.
- Decide if you genuinely like the guy - or gal - and if you feel comfortable with the dental staff and the general surroundings. Many people dread the dentist because they are scared of drills, discomfort and pain. Don't make things worse by picking a dentist you can't stand to be in the same room with for more than three minutes! And if you don't feel you can honestly trust them, it's time to go somewhere else.
Different Dental Specialties
You may have found the right general dentist, but what if you or someone in your family needs more specialized treatment? You should know all you can about the different types of dental specialties on offer. They include:
General Dentist. Will deal with everything from extracting molars to wisdom teeth. When they will refer patients to a specialist is a personal decision; some dentists do the vast majority of dental work themselves while others refer more often than not. You may feel more comfortable with a specialist referral, or you may prefer everything to be done in-house.
Endodontist. Specializes in the inner workings of the teeth, particularly root canals.
Orthodontist. Takes care of the tooth development, as well as their growth and the growth of the face and jaws. Can deal with overcrowding of teeth, protruding teeth, impacted teeth, under- and over-bites and teeth that are asymmetrical. Can also put on and maintain orthodontic braces. Also does oral and maxillofacial surgery.
Periodontist. Knows how to deal with and treat gum disease, also known as periodontitis. Can clean teeth and gums, do bone rafts and even do dental implants, when necessary.
Pediatric Dentist. Specializes in treating children. Knows not only everything there is to know about dental care in kids, but also creates a soothing, happy environment that encourages them to want to come back, again and again.
Cosmetic Dentist. Performs a wide variety of treatments, most of which are cosmetic but many of which are also functional in nature. From tooth whitening to veneers to bridgework, a cosmetic dentist knows all there is to give you the perfect smile.
Prosthodontist. Rebuilds and replaces teeth by making dentures, bridges and implants.
Finding the right dentist - and the right dental specialist - is an important decision for you and your family. Some people see the same dentist for decades, referring them on to children and even grandchildren. Remember, though, that making sure you have - and maintain - a bright, clean smile is ultimately your responsibility, not your dentist's. So take it seriously, not only by having regular dental visits but by brushing and flossing regularly and eating a balanced diet.