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How To Find A Dentist


Choosing a dentist can be as easy as spotting the nearest one to your house and setting an appointment. However, that method isn’t recommended. Dentists are licensed practitioners who hold either a DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery) or a DMD (Doctor of Dental Medicine). They attend up to 10 years of education and training before they are granted licensure. Some are specialists within certain fields, while other’s deal with the general public. Depending on why you need to see a dentist, will determine which type of dentist you need to see. There are nine different dental specialties. For example, any dentist can do orthodontic procedures (such as applying braces), but not all choose to, whereas orthodontists specialize in the field. The same goes for prosthodontists. General dentists can apply crowns and bridges, but prosthodontists specialize in the rehab of crowns and bridges.

In most cases, it’s probably best to begin your research by talking with friends and family. They have experience with several different dentists, and probably aren’t afraid to give their honest opinion about dental work, dental staff and the dentist. Learning of a gentle and caring dentist in your local area via referral can really save you time and money. But referral or not, there are some things you should consider and verify before receiving your first treatment, including:

  • Are they licensed? Diplomas can be found in multiple locations of the office.
  • What is the extent of their training and education? For instance, all dentists are trained to perform cosmetic procedures, but some have more experience.
  • What are their costs? Costs will range among dentists and are generally based upon experience, credentials, specialties, location, etc. More importantly, choosing a licensed dentist you can trust should be considered before prices. If costs are a concern with you, you should let your dentist know.
  • What type of emergency care is offered? Can he/she be reached at any hour of the day or night? What about on weekends and holidays? What are the exact office hours? If they can not be reached, is there another dentist on-call?
  • Do they display a portfolio or book of previous work, such as before and after photos? This is a good indication that A) the dentist has lots of experience and B) he or she feels confident in their work. It also gives you a chance to witness their work first hand. However, not all dentists display an actual book of photos, some may only showcase their photos on their website.
  • Do you feel comfortable in the dental office? Meaning how is the lobby, clean? Are the receptionists, dental hygienists, and other staff friendly and courteous to you? Do they make you feel welcome and at ease or do they add to your tension?
  • Where is the dental office located? Is it close by or do you have to drive a good distance one-way? Having a dentist that is close by can be a blessing, however if you find one that is across town, consider how many times you’ll actually have to drive there each year and make a decision. Usually, if a dentist can provide the comfort and smile you’re after, driving an additional 10-20 miles shouldn’t be a problem.
  • Do they accept your insurance? If the dentist you choose doesn’t accept your insurance, you could be in for the journey all over again. Many times, you can ask for and receive a list from your insurance company detailing which dentists cover you. Or, you can always let that be the first question out of your mouth. If they don’t accept your insurance, you may have to pay higher costs for procedures if you choose to stick with the dentist. (Not always a bad thing, especially if you are comfortable with this particular dentist). However, if cost is important to you, you may want to pick a preferred dentist from your insurance provider. These preferred dentists accept less than their usually and customary fees.

It’s important to remember that all dentists are qualified to perform the procedures you might need to fix your teeth, gums or mouth. However, you may need to interview two or three before deciding on one.

Places to Look for a Dentist

Here are a few places to look for a dentist:

  • Online
  • Local directories
  • Referral
  • Spotting one close-by
  • Through the ADA website
  • Advertisements
  • Other dentists
  • Insurance company

Dentists advertise themselves everywhere, including magazines, bus stops and newspapers. Generally people are aware of dentists by word of mouth, through a list given to them by an insurance company or through advertisements on TV, online, and in local directories such as the YellowPages or your local newspaper. But again, it’s important you know why you are seeking a dentist, that way you can narrow down the right dentist for you.

Learn more about Dental Specialties >

Page updated September 2012



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