Let's face it. Beggars can't be choosers. If you wait until you have a dental emergency to find a dentist, you really limit your options. Oral health affects your overall health. So make it a priority to find a dentist who is worthy of your trust and transfer your dental records - immediately.
Ask friends, family and colleagues for recommendations. If you have dental insurance, cross reference your short list against the directory of local providers. Then, drive by the practices on your short list. Tour one or two that you like best.
Is the office in a good location that is easy to find? Is there adequate parking? These two factors are good indicators as to whether the dentist tends to stay on schedule. Do the people in the waiting room seem content? How about the patients who are leaving? When considering cosmetic work, ask for before and after photos of work done by the particular dentist you plan to use.
Here are some additional strategies and criteria to help you find a dentist worthy of a long-term relationship:
Technology - Does the dentist keep up with emerging technology? Is the equipment well-maintained? Can he/she show you areas of concern and educate you about your options? Does he/she participate in continuing education regularly and demonstrate knowledge of the latest dental research, equipment, techniques and materials? Does the dentist communicate with patients between visits? Does he/she keep an AED on site?
Medical Background - Does the dentist show an interest in your complete medical history? Does he/she explain the connection between oral health and overall health? Does the dentist screen for oral cancer?
Sterilization - Is the office clean and well organized? What sterilization techniques are employed? Are the dental water lines treated to prevent bacterial contamination?
Accessibility - Will you be seeing the same dentist consistently? How long has the dentist you plan to see been affiliated with the practice? Are your concerns addressed promptly? Is your dentist accessible when you need him/her? What is the wait for a regular cleaning? Are emergencies seen the same day? Does the dentist share your philosophy about treating areas of concern? Is the dentist willing to work with you - wait and see, revisit problems, etc. Is the support staff helpful?
Services - Make sure that the dentist regularly provides the range of services you need at prices you can afford. Does he/she participate with your insurance? Does he/she guarantee dental work for six months? A year? Does the dentist offer a payment plan? Does he/she see adults and children? What kinds of cases does he/she refer out? What percentage of his work is restorative? Cosmetic? A good dentist knows when to involve a specialist.
Reputation - Does the dentist care about the community? Does he do any pro bono work? Does he recognize you and other patients by name? The best dentists earn referrals by building long-term relationships with multiple generations of the same family as well as employees from local companies. Do not judge a dentist by the number of patient files. Focus instead on how many patients come back regularly for care.