If you’ve noticed some discoloration, a chipped tooth, or a toothache, it may be time to seek out a reliable dentist. Finding one who can meet your specific needs may not be as easy as you’d think, especially if you’ve got serious issues.
While you might be tempted to just head straight to your local clinic, that may not be enough to find the best dentist for you. Instead, do your research to make sure that you find someone who can meet your needs.
This is important, because people often overlook the extent to which poor dental care can impact a person’s life. In fact, many people avoid visits to the dentist when they can, whether because of the cost, a lack of free time, or their fears about dental procedures.
According to a 2018 survey conducted by Delta Dental Plans Association, 42% of participants in the United States revealed that they don’t visit their dentist as often as they’d like. While it’s sometimes acceptable to delay certain procedures if you’re pressed for time, completely neglecting your oral hygiene can lead to cosmetic issues, dead teeth, temperature sensitivity, cavities, and even gum disease. (1)
To further emphasize the importance of seeking professional guidance, take a look at the morbidity rates of those with untreated dental caries (cavities) in the United States, between 2015 and 2018:
- Adults: 25.9%
- Children/Teenagers: 13.2% (2)
The potential dangers and complications of untreated cavities may include:
- Worsening infection
- Lower quality of life
- Tooth loss
There are other alarming facts about oral health in the US, including:
- Over 46% of American adults have gum disease
- Approximately 54,010 adults in the United States are predicted to be diagnosed with oral and/or oropharyngeal cancer in 2021. (4) (5)
With all this in mind, it shouldn’t be surprising that parents are so set on getting their kids to brush their teeth before bed. For adults, carrying that routine forward into the rest of your life is essential if you wish to avoid any issues.
Finding a good dentist should be a top priority, whether to address problems that arise, or just for regular cleanings. Here are some tips on how to find someone who can help with your specific concerns:
Assess your needs
Before choosing a dentist, make sure you know what kind of treatment you need. A general dentist may be able to cover the basics, and even some more complicated procedures; however, if you need work that requires specialized training, it’s worth seeking out a dentist with the right expertise to perform those procedures.
There are a range of different specialties recognized by the American Dental Association (ADA) and other professional associations, including:
- Dental anesthesiology
- Public health dentistry
- Oral and maxillofacial pathology
- Oral and maxillofacial radiology
- Oral and maxillofacial surgery
- Orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics
- Pediatric dentistry
- (6) (7)
While some disciplines are predominantly focused on specific procedure, others align more with ongoing health management. Certain fields are also age and/or ailment-specific, which further highlights the necessity of choosing a dentist who can understand and meet your specific needs.
If, for example, you’re wanting to whiten, straighten, or reshape your teeth, the person best suited for the job may be a cosmetic dentist. They can also offer crowns, implants, veneers, bridges, and fillings. If, however, you suffer from gum disease. a periodontist may be a better fit. (8)
Take your general health into consideration
If you suffer from chronic illness or allergies, you may need to visit a top-tier dentist, not only to ensure optimal care, but also to avoid any adverse reactions during a procedure. For example, some people react badly to local and general anesthetics.
While these allergic reactions are rare, if you’re among the 1% of people who suffer from them, you’ll want to visit a well-equipped clinic that’s able to deal with such cases. It can be harder to find dentists who are prepared for these issues, so make sure to thoroughly research your options. After all, your safety is the most important consideration. (9)
The same goes for illnesses like cancer. Make sure your dentist knows if you’re currently receiving, or have received in the past six months, treatments like:
- Stem cell or bone marrow transplant.
If you have undergone, or are undergoing, any of these treatments, it’s vital that your dentist does not provide any elective invasive dental treatment without advice from your oncology or hematology team. (10)
If you do undergo any procedures under these circumstances, emergency measures need to be in place, and all the surgeons and nurses involved should to be properly prepped and informed.
Ensure that your dentist has the correct qualifications
It may come as a surprise to hear that there are unqualified people working in, or even running, dental practices. In the US, as well as other countries like Australia, “fake” dentists have caused patients a lot pain—both physical and financial.
Complications of unlicensed dental practice are many, including:
- Life-threatening abscesses requiring immediate emergency surgery
- High costs of mending botched procedures—up to $10,000 in one woman’s case
- Additional or unnecessary pain
- Insurance fraud
- Forged prescriptions
- Ongoing or worsened health problems. (11) (12)
Some people may visit an unqualified provider because they lack money. The aftermath, however, can prove a lot more costly, and dangerous, which is why confirming that the dental provider you’re seeing is properly licensed is well worth the effort. (11)
In the US, anyone who aims to practice dentistry must complete the necessary courses, as well as written and clinical examinations. It’s important to note that requirements will vary depending on the state and therefore, they may be required to undergo further training. (13)
For additional assurance that the dentist they’re seeing is really reputable, some people may prefer to seek out someone approved by, and registered with, one or more of the following associations or organizations:
- American Dental Association (ADA)
- American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD)
- American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine (AADSM)
- Academy of General Dentistry
- American Academy for Oral Systemic Health (AAOSH)
- American Society for Dental Aesthetics (ASDA)
- American Association of Endodontists (AAE)
- American Association of Orthodontists (AAO)
- American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA)
- American Academy of Periodontology (AAP)
- American Dental Society of Anesthesiology (ADSA). (14) (15)
Another factor to consider: just because someone has a degree doesn’t mean they’re qualified in the relevant specialization—e.g., cosmetic dentistry. Therefore, it’s crucial to confirm that your prospective dentist is trained appropriately to treat someone with your needs. (15)
Seek out recommendations
Without having gone to a clinic yourself and experienced the way a dentist approaches their patients firsthand, it can be difficult to determine whether they’re a good match for you and your teeth. Asking family and friends for recommendations can go a long way towards solving this problem.
If someone you know visited a dentist and left with valid reasons not to return, you can take that on board and potentially look elsewhere. The same goes for positive experiences. If, for example, your mother comes home raving about her new dentist—their professional manner, kindness, humor, etc.—you might be able to avoid hours of online searching and simply book yourself an appointment.
Enquire about telehealth
Visting a dental office in-person is inevitable—you need your teeth cleaned—however, it’s possible to do some consultations remotely. If you’re stretched for time, live in a rural area, or simply value being at home rather than driving unnecessarily, ask your potential dentist if they offer any services via telehealth. If not, and it’s important to you, a different dental contender may be the right fit.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the dental industry has seen a significant rise in electronic communications, with approximately 23% of 2,767 survey participants (within 20 different states) revealing they’ve adopted the technology. Another 11% stated that they’re planning to utilize it. (16)
Ensure you feel comfortabl
Feeling safe and secure is important, especially when working so closely with someone. Therefore, you may need to visit a few clinics, and actually meet those who will be taking care of you in person, in order to make your choice.
If they come across as arrogant, unfriendly, or unprofessional, you may decide against seeing them. If, however, they’re easy-going and help you feel comfortable, you may be more inclined to choose them.
Reading online reviews can be a useful step when seeking out any professional help. Reviews let you see what someone’s clients have to say about them, and they should help you to better gauge their level of expertise.
A reputable company will most likely have a higher rating, whereas lower quality businesses may only receive one or two stars. Obviously, reviews sometimes come down to personal preference, which is why some additional digging may be required. Generally speaking, however, reviews are a good way to get a feel for the overall vibe of a practice.
See before and after photos
If you’re someone who needs to see something to believe it, looking at some before and after photos can really help you in your decision-making process, especially if you’re having cosmetic dentistry or surgery done. If you see impressive and successful outcomes, you may feel more inclined to undergo the similar procedures with the same dentist.
Finding the best dentist for you can be difficult. If, however, you do sufficient research, ask around, check credentials, and understand your own personal needs, you should be able to find someone you’re comfortable with who can meet your needs.
- “Survey: More Americans want to visit the dentist,” Source: https://www.ada.org/en/publications/ada-news/2018-archive/march/survey-more-americans-want-to-visit-the-dentist
- “Oral and Dental Health,” Source: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/dental.htm
- “Evaluation of the Prevalence of Clinical Consequences of Untreated Dental Caries Using PUFA/pufa Index in a Group of Iranian Children,” Source: https://sites.kowsarpub.com/ijp/articles/5016.html
- “Adult Oral Health,” Source: https://www.cdc.gov/oralhealth/basics/adult-oral-health/index.html
- “Oral and Oropharyngeal Cancer: Statistics,” Source: https://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/oral-and-oropharyngeal-cancer/statistics
- “Dental specialties and subspecialties,” Source: https://www.britannica.com/science/dentistry/Dental-specialties-and-subspecialties
- “What Are the Dental Specialties in the United States?” Source: https://www.treloaronline.com/blog/what-are-the-dental-specialties-in-the-united-states
- “COSMETIC DENTISTRY TREATMENT GUIDE: PROCESS – COSTS – RECOVERY & MORE,” Source: https://www.smile.com.au/dental-treatments/cosmetic-dentistry
- “Dental anesthesia for patients with allergic reactions to lidocaine: two case reports”, Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5586559/
- “How should adults with cancer be managed by general dental practitioners if they need dental treatment?” Source: https://www.sps.nhs.uk/articles/how-should-adults-with-cancer-be-managed-by-general-dental-practitioners-if-they-need-dental-treatment/
- “Tooth of Crime: Fake Dentists and Their Trail of Deceit,” Source: https://www.docseducation.com/blog/tooth-crime-fake-dentists-and-their-trail-deceit
- “’Fake’ dentist’s patient ended up in ER with ‘tennis ball-sized’ ulcer,” Source: https://abcnews.go.com/US/fake-dentists-patient-ended-er-tennis-ball-sized/story?id=57497629
- “Licensure Overview,” Source: https://www.ada.org/en/education-careers/licensure
- “How to Find a Good Dentist: 7 Tips + 10 FAQs,” Source: https://askthedentist.com/find-good-dentist/
- ‘Everything You Need to Know About Cosmetic Dental Care,” Source: https://www.healthstatus.com/health_blog/wellness/everything-you-need-to-know-about-cosmetic-dental-care/
- “Dentists Are Adopting (and Adapting to) Using Telehealth to Stay Afloat,” Source: https://mhealthintelligence.com/news/dentists-are-adopting-and-adapting-to-using-telehealth-to-stay-afloat