When you're searching for a dentist, the American Dental Association (ADA) offers these suggestions:
- Ask family, friends, neighbors, or co-workers for their recommendations.
- Ask your family doctor or local pharmacist.
- If you're moving, ask your current dentist to make a recommendation.
- Contact your local or state dental society. The ADA provides a list of local and state dental societies on its web site, www.ada.org. Your local and state dental societies also may be listed in the telephone directory under "dentists" or "associations."
The ADA suggests calling or visiting more than one dentist before selecting one.
What Should I Look For When Choosing a Dentist?
You and your dentist will be long-term oral health care partners; therefore, you should find someone you can be comfortable with. To find a suitable dentist to meet your needs, consider asking the following questions as a starting point:
- What are the office hours? Are they convenient for your schedule?
- Is the office easy to get to from work or home?
- Where was the dentist educated and trained?
- What's the dentist's approach to preventive dentistry?
- How often does the dentist attend conferences and continuing education workshops?
- What type of anesthesia is the dentist certified to administer to help you relax and feel more comfortable during any necessary dental treatment?
- What arrangements are made for handling emergencies outside of office hours? (Most dentists make arrangements with a colleague or emergency referral service if they are unable to tend to emergencies.)
- Is information provided about all fees and payment plans before treatment is scheduled? If you are comparison shopping, ask for estimates on some common procedures such as full-mouth X-rays, an oral exam and cleaning, and filling a cavity.
- Does the dentist participate in your dental health plan?
- What is the dentist's office policy on missed appointments?
If visiting a dentist's office:
- Does the office appear to be clean, neat, and orderly? Do all surfaces and equipment in the treatment room appear clean?
- Is the dental staff helpful and willing to answer your questions?
- Do you observe the dentist and staff wearing gloves and other protective gear during actual patient treatment?
Where Do People With Special Needs Obtain Dental Care?
The ADA Council on Access, Prevention and Interprofessional Relations suggests the following tips for finding dental care if you have special needs:
- Inform the dentist about your special health or financial conditions.
- Ask if the dentist has training and/or experience in treating patients with your specific condition.
- Ask if the dentist has an interest in treating patients with your specific condition.
- Find out if the dentist participates in your dental insurance program.
- Ask if the dental facility is accessible to the disabled.
In addition, the council suggests that patients with special needs:
- Contact the dental director at your state department of public health. The ADA's web site provides information on locating this person.
- Contact the nearest dental school clinic or hospital dental department, especially if it is affiliated with a major university.
- Contact the Special Care Dentistry Association at (312) 527-6764.
Where Can I Learn About Charitable or Low-Cost Dental Care?
Because dental assistance programs vary from state to state, contact your state dental society to find out if there are programs in your area. Dental school clinics are another source of lower-cost dental care. A list of dental school clinics is provided by the ADA. Generally, dental costs in school clinics cover materials and equipment. Your state dental society can tell you if there is a dental school clinic in your area.