How to Search for a Dentist

So, how do you search for a dentist? Would you look at credentials, or ask a family member or friend? What is important to you? To help you decide on the best dentist for your needs, we will review some factors which involve location, age, memberships, faculty status, as well as dental fees charged - factors which should be used in your search.

Basic Techniques Used to Search for a Dentist

  1. Location
  2. Many people choose their dentist based on the doctor's office location. Location is often looked at in times of traveling time. If you do not have to travel a long distance, this may be seen as an advantage. But, while it is not best to choose a dentist who practices 30 miles away, it may not always be a good decision to select a dentist who's office is located in the closest shopping center, unless there are other good reasons for doing so.

  3. Age
  4. "Should I go to a young, middle age or old dentist?" While older dentists tend to have more experience, younger dentists are often more familiar with the latest dental technology and, therefore more abreast of recent issues - or are they? The fact is, many dentists are encouraged to take continuing education courses throughout the course of their careers. You may end up with a young dentist who is not only inexperienced, but lacks current knowledge about the field, passing up an opportunity to have an older dentist who not only has great hands, but is involved is researching some of the latest dental techniques. Thus, skills and knowledge depends more on the extent to which the dentist is involved in his/her own professional growth.

  5. Memberships
  6. While there is emphasis on the dentist being a member of the American Dental Association (ADA), some critics argue that membership does not really certify a dentist's abilities, as anyone who pays the membership fees will become a member. During your search for a dentist, in addition to any memberships, find out if the dentist has any special clinical achievements and certifications for advanced study in dentistry. There are many dentists who are good administrators, able to move up quickly in an organization, but are not necessarily good clinicians, unable to provide a high quality of dental care to the patient population.

  7. Faculty Member
  8. Is it important that the dentist be a faculty member of an accredited dental school? Similar to being a member of a club, being a faculty member does not make a dentist a better clinician. While a dentist may be good at research and teaching, it does not mean that they are necessarily better at clinical dentistry. In fact, there are many faculty members who lack the clinical experience necessary for high quality dental care. So during your search for a dentist, if your prospective dentist states that he or she is a faculty member of so and so University, you can take this as a positive thing, but do not be prepared to make a decision based solely on this information.

  9. Dental Fees
  10. Does having high dental fees mean better service? Is having lower fees providing you with a lower quality of dental care? There is no direct correlation between the two. Of course, if the dental fees associated with a dental procedure is really lower than average, you should question why. At the same time, an inflated dental fee does not mean that the quality of work is any better than average.

Given the above factors, What should you look for in your search for a dentist?

Office Appearance

During the consultation visit in your search for a dentist, take a look around the dental practice. While there may be no direct relation between one's office setup and one's clinical skills, a dentist who cares about the appearance of his/her practice is someone, in my opinion, seems to care about esthetics. Anyone who spends time to construct a neat and friendly appearance is usually a person who pays attention to details - a very important component of dentistry. A dentist who cares about the patient's experience usually cares about that patients' health. Now a dentist may spend time and money on the appearance of their office for marketing purposes, but again this shows attention to details, as well as planning, which is not a bad thing. Your search for a dentist should include the office appearance information to some extent when evaluating the dentist.

Office Organization

A dentist whose office is efficient and organized is usually an organized person in general. If I were searching for a dentist for my oral health care needs, I would want someone who was organized and neat. This type of person will be able to manage my treatment the same way he manages a successful business - with care, efficiency and due diligence.

Doctor's Attitude

A confident doctor is often calm and friendly - even when faced with pressures (anxious patients, painful emergencies, crying children, personal issues). While nervousness may stem from many factors which may have nothing to do with your visit, it may not be fair to the dental provider to use against them, but, you should see it as an important factor - how often does this behavior occur during patient visits?


Surprising, dental staff are seen as one of the least relevant factors in the search for a dentist. There are many good dentists who may have at least one or two staff members who have attitude problems, which reflect negatively on the dentist. While some see it as the doctor's fault if a staff member performs below standards, finding good staff especially in good economic times is very challenging. Given this fact, attempt to make your decision based on the skills and expertise of the dentist, rather than the behavior of a single staff member.

Dentist Referrals

A referral by another dentist usually is a sign of a strong endorsement for a dentist. In your search for a dentist, it may be one of the few methods where you can generally expect to receive good quality service without knowing much about the other dentist. The referring dentist is willing to put his own professional reputation on the line. This is often the case when being referred to a specialist for such procedures as root canal therapy, gum surgery or oral surgery treatment. But, this could also be nothing more than the dentist's having some sort of special agreement to send each other patients. Use common sense and apply the same factors as noted above when being referred to a dental specialist. You should also consider using a referral service to help in your search for a dentist that would be qualified to handle your specific need, if necessary.

There are many factors to think about when searching for a dentist. I hope this information will help you to evaluate and make a good decision for you and your family.

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