Picking the right dentist can be a really challenging thing to do! Unlike many other service based businesses, you have very little way of knowing the competency of a specific dentist. There are, however, some steps you can take to increase your odds of finding a good one. I’ve listed them in order of importance.
- Don’t go to a corporate dental office. I worked at several corporate offices early in my career and I can tell without a doubt that these offices are not structured to provide optimal patient care. They are structured to provide maximum profit. There are a lot of good dentists who work at these places but the corporate structure limits their ability to provide the best care for you. Some corporate offices are really easy to spot like Aspen Dental, Comfort Dental, Kool Smiles, Pacific Dental Services, Monarch Dental, etc. Other corporate dental offices are a bit trickier and use names like “Your Town” Dental Care. Unless you do some digging you won’t be aware. Heartland Dental Care is one of the main ones that does this.
- Go to a dentist who you feel comfortable with and who is willing to sit down and explain everything to you. An honest dentist will always be willing to explain treatment to you and usually won’t become defensive. If in doubt seek a second opinion. An honest dentist won’t care if you do this either.
- If the dentist treats his staff or patients poorly, don’t go to him. I’ve known dentists who yell at staff, throw things at them, and treat them unfairly. These dentists usually hate their career and only do it for the money. Your odds of getting good treatment from a dentist who hates being a dentist are far less.
- Choose a dentist who has been out of school for at least several years. Early career dentists just haven’t had the repetitions to be quite as good clinically as more experienced dentists. Again, this is not always true, however on average a more experienced dentist will be able to provide better quality clinical treatment. I learned a lot in my first 5 years in dental practice but also made quite a few mistakes. This is unfortunately the learning curve for anyone in a skilled profession. Several books have made the claim that 10,000 hours of practice is what it takes to become an expert at any task. In dentistry terms that is right around 5 years of work.
- Seeing a dentist who owns their own office or is in a group practice with several owners, is usually your best option for quality dentistry. Owner dentists have a vested interest in providing the best care possible. They know they will be there long term and they will be the ones to fix any poor quality work at their own expense. Associates in corporate offices know they can just move on to the next job and usually don’t expect to be somewhere long term.
- It is not always best to use someone who is in network with your insurance. While there are a lot of good dentists who are in network with insurance plans, reimbursement is significantly less and they are not able to spend as much time on each patient. I don’t find this a deal breaker and you will save a lot of money on an in network dentist, but keep it in mind.