Finding the right dental practice that fits your needs can feel like a daunting task. Luckily with today’s technology, there are many new tools to aid you in finding the right dental team. The internet offers multiple avenues for finding a good practice. You can look up the practice through the practice web site. There you can read about the practice, the dentist and staff and their office philosophy, policies and the treatment that they provide. The internet also gives the patients feedback on the dental practice through patient reviews. I personally think the internet is a great tool and I use it whenever I’m looking for a new professional or contractor, but I still recommend that when finding a good dentist that you ask trusted friends and families who they would recommend. Word of mouth is still the best resource.
Finding a good dentist is only part of the task at hand. You also need to find a good dental team. I call it a dental team here because nowadays it takes more than just a good dentist to ensure that you are getting great dental care. The dentist is the most important team member but a large percentage of your treatment will also come from the dental hygienist and the dental assistants. Also, some of the most important issues are handled by the front desk staff. The office manager, treatment coordinator and receptionists need to be very capable, attentive and respectful to the patients as well. They should be trained enough to be helpful in answering financial questions and helping with dental insurance issues.
Now once you have two or three possible offices that you think might be right, it is time to call the office and talk to the staff. Do not be afraid to ask questions. If you like how you are being treated on the phone, it may be time to set up an appointment. I recommend that you ask for a comprehensive exam (often called a new patient exam). Comprehensive exams will be the best way to evaluate your entire mouth for disease. Sometimes this type of exam may have to be scheduled a few weeks out in order for the office to find a convenient time on the schedule. If you are calling with a dental emergency like a tooth ache, you may have to ask for a limited oral exam. These exams are shorter and only focus on the area of the mouth that is hurting or uncomfortable. Because these appointments are shorter in duration, the staff may be able to get you in much sooner.
A good dental office will try hard to get you in quickly if you are having a dental emergency. If you do not feel like the staff is trying hard to get you in quickly, then it may be best to continue your search for a new practice. Most good offices will have well trained front office staff that are trained at using a “short call list”. This is a list of patients that have urgent issues and/or flexible schedules that the front office staff will call when a spot opens up on the schedule.
During your initial visit and exam you will get to meet the dentist and his/her staff and you will get to see the office. Again, do not be afraid to ask questions, but also let the doctor and staff know your main concerns. Communication should go both ways in order to get the best experience during your exam. Let the staff know if you are scared or anxious. Also, tell them any information you can about any dental problems you are experiencing.
Some offices may attempt to also provide a cleaning at your first visit and exam. However, there are different types of dental cleanings and the dentist and dental hygienist will determine the correct type of cleaning that is needed based on the disease and infection present in your mouth. The more advanced stages of gum disease require more in depth dental therapy that cannot be provided in the amount of time scheduled at your comprehensive exam. If these deeper cleanings are indicated, a good dental practice will not provide a basic dental cleaning for you even if you say you just want a cleaning. With advanced gum disease present, a dentist or dental hygienist providing a “regular cleaning” would then be under-treating and providing a disservice to their patients.
Look around the office. Does it look clean and does the equipment look new or old? Does the office use the newest in dental technology like digital x-rays, 3D imaging, computerized charting, computer regulated pain-free anesthesia, dental lasers and intra-oral cameras? Do they offer those little extras that makes you feel more at home? Our office offers coffee and other refreshments, warm blankets, music and movies during your dental treatment, hot towel therapy after your appointment, and WiFi. Sometimes those little extras make all the difference in your dental experience and keep you coming back.
Once you find a great dental practice and dental team, stick with them and tell your friends. They will appreciate you saving them from having to search on their own.