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Finding a New Dentist


For a variety of reasons, people who would never skip their annual checkup with a medical doctor may go for years, even decades, without seeing a dentist. The reasons why people neglect their oral health are varied, but often involve a squeamishness about dental care as well as previous bad experiences with a dentist.

Unfortunately, neglecting one's oral health can have severe health consequences that go beyond cavities, discoloration, and bad breath. People with heart conditions, for example, need to see a dentist regularly as oral bacteria can get into the bloodstream and aggravate a heart condition. There is also a possible correlation between gum disease and certain types of dementia. In addition, tooth decay can lead to great pain and infections that may become life-threatening.

The best way to avoid these major health problems is to develop a close relationship with a local dentist. Regular checkups not only keep your smile bright, but can help slow or prevent tooth decay and allow your dentist to spot possible problems before they become too severe.

Social and professional interactions are likewise affected by oral health. Bad breath can negatively affect one's interpersonal and professional relationships. In addition, many people make negative value judgments about people who have "bad teeth." Addressing the root causes of halitosis as well as improving the appearance of one smile can make a huge difference in life satisfaction and personal success.

How to Choose a Good Dentist

Because oral health is such an important part of our physical, emotional and professional well-being, we should put as much effort into evaluating dentists as we would any other medical professional. Here are some things to think about in your search:

  • General Dentists Vs. SpecialistsWhen you begin looking for a dentist, consider whether you are looking for someone to handle your general oral health needs or whether you need a specialist. General or family dentists typically offer a range of services, but focus on maintaining good oral health through regular examinations and cleanings.Some dentists specialize in a particular branch of dentistry. For example, periodontists treat gums while orthodontists focus on straightening and aligning teeth. Depending on the seriousness of a dental condition, the services of an oral surgeon may be required. Your regular dentist can usually make referrals to these specialists, but in some situations, you may have to find one on your own. Online and traditional Yellow Pages list dentist by specialization. This makes it easy for you to find the type of oral health professional that you need.
  • Location and SchedulingWhen considering how to find a good dentist, make sure that you are paying attention to location. Names and Numbers directory listings include a link to an online map so you’ll have a better idea of where the dentist’s office actually is.Ideally, your dentist should be convenient to your home or office. This is true even if you only plan to see the dentist once or twice a year. This is because dental emergencies, such as a broken tooth or a lost filling, can happen at any time. You can avoid unnecessary pain and expense by being able to get to your dentist's office quickly.One thing to ask a dentist about is his or her scheduling options. Many dentists offer weekend and evening appointments to patients who can't take time off of work or school. Be sure to ask a dentist’s office staff about their emergency procedures. Ideally, you want to work with a dentist to offers a 24-hour emergency service that allows you to get advice and treatment in case of an injury or acute infection.
  • Costs, Insurance, and FinancingPaying for dental care can sometimes be more complicated than paying for standard medical services. Dental insurance operates a little differently than the insurance accepted by physicians. In addition, some dentists participate in dental discount programs or partner with third-party finance companies. To avoid surprises, it's important to ask about payment issues prior to an office visit.Many dentists accept insurance, but you may be required to either pay for services upfront and then receive reimbursement, or you may be required to make a co-pay on a covered service. Ask about which plans the dentist accepts before making an appointment and, if the dentist accepts your plan, ask about whether you will be expected to provide some type of payment at the time of service.Some dentists participate in dental discount programs. If you are member of such a program, your dentist may offer you a percentage off your final bill or a flat rate on standard dental services such as exams, cleanings, and teeth whitening. Always check with the dentist before making appointment to find out whether they participate in your program.Dentist may also offer private financing on a variety of services, including orthodontic work, cosmetic procedures, and dentures. In some cases, you can make a payment arrangement with the dentist directly. In other cases, dentists will rely on third-party finance companies to offer credit approval and billing services.If you don't have insurance, don't despair. Some dentists offer special rates to uninsured patients and are happy to accept credit card payments. In addition, many dentists have new patient specials that include an exam, x-rays, and cleaning at one low discounted price.
  • Sedation, Anesthesia, and Pain ManagementIssues surrounding sedation, anesthesia, and pain management can be sensitive matters for many people. Some people have a phobia of going to the dentist, while others are concerned about being awake during certain dental procedures. In addition, tolerance of pain varies between patients.Dentists also vary in their approach to managing these issues. In some cases, an incompatibility between a patient's needs and desires and a dentist’s normal procedures can result in a disruption in the dentist – patient relationship. If you are aware that you have particular pain management or sedation needs, ask your dentist questions about his or her philosophy before scheduling an appointment or a procedure that may require pain control.
  • Cosmetic ServicesIf you are unhappy with the way your teeth look, look into cosmetic dentistry. While many family dentists offer cosmetic services, there are some dentists that specialize in it. There are now many options for improving a smile, including teeth whitening and invisible aligners that provide adults with a less obvious alternative to traditional braces.

Making Contact

Once you have a list of dentists who appear to meet your needs, begin doing some additional research. You can call their offices to ask questions or check out their websites. One advantage to calling directly is that you can get an idea of what kind of customer service the office staff provides. If the person who answers the phone is short, rude, or unprofessional, you may decide that this is not a dental practice that you want to work with.

Once you've settled on a dentist to visit, you may want to arrange to have your records from your previous dentist sent over to their office. If necessary, talk to your insurance company and get pre-authorization for the visit and be sure to arrive for your appointment a few minutes early so that you can fill out new patient paperwork.

Final Word

Oral health is important, and so is your quest to find a new dentist. A positive relationship with your dentist is important for maintaining healthy teeth and gums, as well as being able to get appropriate care in emergency situations. Taking the time to do some research into the professionals in your area, along with their services and payment options, can help ensure the well-being of both you and your family.

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