Dentists: How to Find One

Whether you're moving to a new city or working up the courage to schedule your first checkup in years, you don't want to trust your teeth to just anyone.

Here's how to find a dentist who's right for you.

  • Get advice from family and friends. A recommendation from someone you know and trust is the best qualification a dentist can have, says Manuel Cordero, DDS, MAGD, a New Jersey dentist and spokesman for the Academy of General Dentistry.
  • If you're moving to a new area where you don't know anyone, ask your current dentist to make a recommendation.
  • Start slowly. Schedule an appointment for a checkup, cleaning, or perhaps just a consultation. Think of it as a job interview where you're the boss. Does the dentist act like a professional? Does he or she explain things clearly? Is the office clean and tidy? Does the staff treat you well? How much do common procedures cost? Does the dentist accept your insurance? It may also be worth asking whether the dentist does both amalgam (silver) and composite (tooth-colored) fillings. Many dentists no longer use silver, but insurance often doesn't cover the entire cost of the more expensive composites.
  • Know your personal style. While some people prefer a dentist who's business-like and efficient, others need gentle compassion, Cordero says. Look for a dentist who has both good credentials and the social skills to make you feel as comfortable and relaxed as possible in the dentist's chair.
  • Don't wait for an emergency. It's hard to judge a dentist's abilities when you're blinded by pain from an abscessed tooth.
  • Ask the dentist to explain the overall goals of treatment. Ideally, he or she should be committed to both your appearance and your overall health, Cordero says. If one or the other doesn't seem to matter, start looking for a new dentist.
  • Consider checking out the Web site of the Academy of General Dentistry to find an academy member near you. Members are required to get at least 75 hours of continuing education every three years, significantly more than other associations require. Dentists who belong to the American Dental Association are also encouraged to participate in ongoing education.

References

Interview with Manuel Cordero, DDS, MAGD, a New Jersey dentist and spokesperson for the Academy of General Dentistry.

American Dental Association. Frequently asked questions. 2010.

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