5 steps to choosing a new dentist
When it comes to tooth care, it’s always best to see the same dentist regularly. You’ll establish a relationship, and that dentist will get to know all your individual needs, from anxieties to allergies. Plus you’ll have a history together. “They will be familiar with what’s gone on in your mouth The more work the dentist has put in, the more responsibility the dentist will have for it. If anything happens down the road, it makes a difference how it’s taken care of.
But how do you find a dentist who’s right for you? These five steps will guide you in your search.
Getting a referral
If you’re moving to a new community, it’s always helpful to ask your current dentist if she can recommend someone. But don’t stop there. Check with your family doctor or neighbourhood pharmacist for referrals. Use your social network: Put the word out to friends, relatives and even parents of your kids’ friends to let them know you’re looking.
Checking out the logistics
A certain new dentist may be dazzling, but how accessible is his office? Is there parking or public transportation nearby? What are the office hours? If the dentist won’t book appointments on weekends or evenings and you’re tied to your desk from Monday to Friday, it may not be a match. What about dental emergencies, like a broken tooth on a Sunday afternoon? How are they handled? What’s the fee range, and if you don’t have insurance, is a payment plan available?
Placing a call
Phone the front-desk staff to find out whether the dentist is accepting new patients. While you’re at it, ask about some of the logistics you’re still wondering about. This is also your chance to check out any attitude. “How does the receptionist treat you?” says Ward. “Are the staff friendly? Do they make you feel good?” If you’re left on hold indefinitely, if the staff seem snappish and rushed, or if they don’t seem to know the answers to any of your questions, it may not be a good sign.
Paying a visit
Go and see the place in person. Is it easy to get to, and did it take you a reasonable amount of time? Are the waiting room and offices neat, clean and well-organized? Are you treated with courtesy when you arrive? What’s your sense of the overall atmosphere – do you feel comfortable in this environment?
Talking with the doc
At your first visit, ask the dentist about her approach to treatment. Does she explain things clearly, and is prevention part of her oral care plan? Dentists differ in things like their emphasis on cosmetic dentistry, or how frequently they require an x-ray. “You should have a pretty good idea about what you want for yourself, and see how they fit in with that,” says Ward. Most important of all, this introductory chat with the dentist will help you decide how comfortable you are with her. Do you find you can communicate easily, and does she listen to your questions and concerns?
It may take some doing to find the best dentist-patient fit. But the long-term payoff for you-and your teeth-will be well worth it.
How to Find the Right Dentist –
Considering that you and your dentist will be partners in your dental healthcare for the long haul, choosing the right dentist is an important decision for you and your family. How do you go about finding the right dentist?
To help you with this, we’ve come up with a list of what we think are the top 10 things to consider:
First make an initial list of three or four dentist based on a few things:
- Do they submit claims to all insurances?
If you want to see a dentist that comes highly recommended by a friend or family member but is out of your network, call the practice and ask if they submit claims to all insurance providers. Most do, so it is worth asking before eliminating this practice from your list.
- Do they offer other payment options for non-insured patients?
If you do not have dental insurance a big consideration may be whether or not the practice offers patient financing options such as Credit Care or Springstone. As many practices require payment upfront, having a means to pay for the service insures you get the treatment you need.
- Are they members of professional associations such as the American Dental Association or the Wisconsin Dental Association?
Members of the ADA voluntarily agree to abide by the ADA Code as a condition of membership in the Association.
The ADA Code has three main components: The Principles of Ethics, the Code of Professional Conduct and the Advisory Opinions. For more info: WDA Code of Ethics.
- Are treatment plans discussed up front and cost estimates given?
When discussing treatment, are the plans covered in detail so you know what to expect, how many visits the treatment will take, how much time? Are you given accurate estimates up front? Are your questions answered clearly?
Your Right to Care
The ADA dictates that, as a patient, you have a right to “reasonable arrangements for dental care and emergency treatment.” This doesn’t mean that the dentist has to be available at all hours or to participate in procedures for which he or she may not be qualified.
With that being said, the ADA adds that you have the right to “arrange to see the dentist every time you receive dental treatment.” The interpretation of this varies by state. Some states, for example, requires a dentist to see you once a year even if you only go in for cleaning. Other states are far more lax in their regulations.
In addition to access, the ADA asserts that:
- You have the right to receive considerate and respectful treatment
- You have a right to accept, defer, or decline any part of your treatment
- You have a right to ask for alternative treatment options (even though a dentist may decline if they are harmful, experimental, or contrary to prescribed dental practices)
What if I’m satisfied with my current dentist, but they’re not in my network?
Keep going to the dentist you love!
To understand why this is probably the best choice, it’s important to know that dental prices are not standardized like medical charges.
In-network providers sign a contract in which they agree to be paid less than they’d hope to in exchange for being included in the network. The fee isn’t massive, and it’s worth it for many providers. However, if you’re out-of-network, you can technically charge anything you want.
Here are the two options I would recommend, in this order:
- Show them your new dental insurance plan to find out if they’re willing to accept whatever the insurance company is willing to pay, then write off the rest. The downside to this is that you could eat up the cap on your dental insurance benefits for the year, which isn’t great if you have major work needed.
- Ask for an “in-network fee schedule.” That schedule is set up to normalize every dental billing code and how much they agree to make from every insurance company for those codes. Most offices are willing to accept this, and it means you’ll pay similar prices with your existing dentist as you would by switching to an in-network provider.
Either way, the dental office will still file the claim for you. I suggest setting up an agreement for one of the above options before your appointment, so you understand what you will (and won’t) be required to pay.
Eat a Balanced Diet
The ADA encourages patients to eat a tooth-friendly, balanced diet, limiting sugar intake. While sugars are necessary for proper body functions, they also feed the bacteria in the mouth, resulting in acid production. This acid production is responsible for erosion and tooth weakening.
Choose foods such as whole grains, fruit, vegetables, lean proteins and low-fat dairy options for general oral health. The ADA also lists several foods that are among the most damaging to teeth:
- Acidic citrus foods
- Sugary coffee drinks
- Sticky, hard candies or dried fruit
- Crunchy foods that retain plaque
- Sodas and sports drinks
The ADA recommends drinking plenty of water throughout the day, too, not only to stay hydrated, but to rinse residual food debris and acids from the surface of the enamel. Saliva is also critical to helping you wash away food particles and acids from your mouth. Your mouth actually releases less saliva during snacking compared with when you eat a meal, which is why the ADA recommends limiting your snacking.