Whether you’ve just placed yourself on a new dental insurance plan or decided that you’d like to change your dental care provider, there are some serious things to consider when choosing a dentist. Some of these things may seem trivial while others may surprise you. Let’s take a look at each of them in detail and make sure you get the care you need.
#1 – Get Suggestions from Those around You
A little bit of advice never hurt anyone, and honest reviews from people you trust can make the decision a lot easier for you. Personal opinions can tell you things online reviews or dentist profiles can’t. Sure that dentist you’re considering may have multiple awards and certificates, but was his staff helpful and friendly? Did the office look clean? Did they have problems with insurance billing or unexpected costs after a procedure? Your friends or family can have helpful insight into different dentists in the area.
Getting feedback doesn’t have to come from only family members or friends. Other health care providers such as your eye doctor or your son’s school nurse may know the reputations of local dentists. Teachers or coaches may also have some ideas.
Lastly, the chamber of commerce in most cities has a business list that may tell you a little more in-depth information on a certain dentist, such as how long they’ve been in business, any associations the dentist is affiliated with such as the American Dental Association, and long-term comprehensive reviews.
#2 – Staying within Insurance Network or Not, and the Extra It May Cost You
When you got that new insurance plan, you were probably provided with a list or registry of network dentists that accept your insurance plan. This may be a primary way to make a decision about your teeth health practitioner. Additionally, many insurance plans only pay a certain portion of certain types of dental procedures or orthodontic devices, so knowing your coverage well and being aware of what the difference will be with each dentist you’re considering will help you make a good decision that aligns with your budget.
#3 – Convenience of Office and Accessibility of Care
If time is high-value in your schedule or life, the convenience of the office location as well as the hours they are open or available for care may be a deciding factor. It makes sense that having an dental office close to your home or your workplace will make visits before or after work or between errands easier to tuck into a scheduled day. In addition, some dentists block specific availability times for patients with certain types of insurance, so be sure to take note of that as you gather information to make your decision. For example, if you can’t miss any time during your work hours, you’ll need to find a dentist with an office that opens before your hours or after them, or perhaps is open on Saturdays.
#4 – Interrogate the Prospects
There’s no need for a dark room with a bright light shining in to their eyes, but it’s important to meet the dentist and confirm the information you’ve gathered prior to making a final decision. There are many reasons to do this. First, you need to feel comfortable in every part of the office and with every member of their staff. This includes being greeted, the cleanliness of all areas you can get your eyes on, and the dentist him-or-herself. Let your intuition take the wheel here. A study at the Tel Aviv University’s School of Psychological Sciences found that participants that made a decision on instinct alone was 90% accurate. You’ll know fairly quickly whether the office could be a good fit.
In addition to your general feeling of the office, you’ll need to ask the dentist questions about the way they do business and procedures, costs and billing, scheduling and cancellation policy(especially for anyone with work schedules that often have business trips or shift changes), trainings or associations they regularly participate in, whether they offer anesthesia if you’ll need it, and how emergency dental care is handled by his or her patients. Some other questions to include may be:
- Which, if any, dental procedures are referred out to specialists?
- How far in advance will regular checkups or cleanings need to be scheduled?
- Is prevention a foremost consideration of the dentists business philosophy?
- What type of payment plans does the office offer to non-insurance patients?
#5 – How Dental Care will affect Your Budget
We mentioned this one in a couple places above, but it’s important to take what you learn from consulting a dentist and his or her staff as well as what your friends and family may have mentioned and work it into a projection budget sheet. Cost is a major factor in what’s realistic for dental care. In 2014, only about 64% of U.S. citizens had dental coverage and with the recent changes in affiliated policy that number has dropped. If you have insurance, you’ll need to consider co-pays and limits on certain procedures. If you don’t have insurance, you’ll need to be honest with yourself and consider a dentist with lower costs than others.
The Work is Worth It
This all may seem a bit extreme, but with this simple guide you can learn a lot about the handful of dentists you’re considering and find the perfect fit for your family and your wallet. As someone once said, “The best and cheapest dentistry is when the right thing is done extremely well the first time and it lasts for a long time.” That is the type of dentist all this research can find you.