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I am a member of various social media groups, and inevitably someone will ask if anyone knows a good dentist.  People will then start naming off dentists and say things like “oh he is such a great dentist,” “we just love Dr. X”, or “she is so funny” and there is no real substance behind the recommendation.    I have been in the dental industry for over 25 years, and I often wonder what qualifications the non-dental professional finds important when recommending a dentist.   With dental health being such a genuinely vital part of overall health, choosing the right Dentist is vital.  In fact, as I have stated, I have been in the dental industry for over 25 years and have worked with thousands of dentists over the course of my career, and I would only recommend a small percentage of those with which I have worked.  I conducted a little research for this article to see what the internet advises when seeking out a dentist and the list looks something like the following:

  • Is the office close to your home or office?
  • Do they offer convenient office hours?
  • Cost considerations, do they accept insurance?
  • What type of training did they receive?
  • Check with state licensing boards to see if they are licensed or have they had any disciplinary actions taken against them. 

Don’t get me wrong these are all important and should be taken into consideration when choosing a dentist.  I would like to point out that I would forgo the close office, convenient hours and insurance concerns to see the right dentist.  In other words, if all the great local dentist were not able to work on my mouth I would fly to Middle America to get care from a dentist there that I know meets my criteria.  That is how important this decision is.   So what other things should you factor in when choosing a dentist?  Here are some other considerations:

  • Do not wait for an emergency to find a great dentist.  Dentistry has so many critical health benefits that making this part of your overall health care is essential.  Regular cleanings, exams, and proper home care can help prevent problems such as gum disease, and tooth loss.  In fact, research shows that gum disease can be a risk factor for coronary heart disease and other heart-related issues.
  • Ask about continuing education courses the dentist has taken within the past year.  Every state requires a certain amount of continuing education for dentists to take every year.  Many outstanding dentists will take more than required and do not stop learning and improving.
  • Your dentist should provide you with a comprehensive exam that includes checking for gum disease, cancer, and decay.  One critical area the dentist should also be looking at is your bite.  Understanding the relationship between how your teeth contact is a key aspect of overall dental health.  When this is not functioning properly over time, the stress can cause chips, broken teeth as well as jaw pain and headaches.
  • An excellent dentist will also take the time to explain the findings of an exam and provide treatment options.  In most cases, there is more than one option, and a great dentist will help you to understand those options and the pros and cons of each.  From there you both can find a treatment plan that fits your needs as well as budget.
  • If your situation calls for veneers or multiple units you should be involved in picking the color, shape, and arrangement of your teeth.  Outstanding dentists will show pictures, discuss color and material choices.  They will take impressions and have a wax-up done to determine what exactly needs to occur before they ever prepare your teeth for final restorations.
  • The last item on this list but certainly not the least important is the laboratory the dentist chooses to work with on your case.  The laboratory is the part of the treatment that makes the restorations or teeth.  The laboratory is a critical component in the success of the process.  An excellent lab will have knowledgeable technicians who are not only trained to understand the artistic side of dentistry, but they will also understand the functional side.  They will be taking continuing education classes alongside dentists to stay on top of new ideas, technologies, and material.  Ask your dentist about the laboratory they use and then check out the lab’s website or give them a call.

I cannot stress enough the importance of your dental health.  Some outstanding dentists provide unmatched care, and it should be a priority to find them and add them to your healthcare team.  Investing in preventive treatments and taking care of issues as they will be a huge benefit not only financially but to your overall health as well.

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