Here’s a scenario many people dread: you’re forced to find a new dentist. Because you must. You just moved here. Your parents’ dentist retired. You know you need a cleaning. You have a toothache. All are valid reasons, so how do you choose? Go online? Ask a coworker or a friend? Google this query and you’ll find a variety of criteria for selecting a dentist: willingness to bargain for fees, where did they go to school, how many staff members in the office. Does the doctor belong to any professional organization?
These concerns which are treated as dogma by various websites (and doctors) are only peripheral to what your search should be. So here’s my unvarnished advice for picking a dentist, a person whom you will invite into your most personal space.
- Make a list: what are your fears, what are your wishes as to how you want to be treated. Do you have specific needs that you want to be addressed in a certain way with a specific outcome in mind? Then call a doctor — someone near you, someone who’s been recommended, someone in your insurance booklet, it doesn’t matter because you’re calling to interview the doctor. You ask the receptionist if you may come in to interview the doctor before you commit to an appointment. All you need is a half hour of the doctor’s time. If they say there’s a charge for that or refuse top be interviewed, then say goodbye and cross that office off your list.
- You want a doctor who is passionate about their work. Passion is part of compassion, so this doctor wants to make sure you’re comfortable during and after procedures. And how are you being made comfortable? Headphones and a TV on the ceiling are fine, but this doctor will make sure that after the procedure when the numbness wears off, you have pain under control by giving you appropriate medications, such as a combination of Tylenol and Ibuprofen, so you can get back to work.
- Ask if the doctor is uniquely qualified to address your particular problems. Have they ever addressed this situation before and what are the risks? Have they ever taken continuing education in this area? You will now be straying into an area where the doctor may ask to do an exam with X-rays and or other means of imaging, such as MRI and/or CT scans. They may ask to take photographs and do study models of your teeth. This is a doctor who wants as much information about your situation as possible before committing to treating you. There will be fees to gather this information. It’s now up to you to consent to an exam of this nature. If you do, and the previous questions have been answered to your satisfaction, then, congratulations. You’ve found a dentist who has your best interests at heart.