Choosing and Evaluating a Dentist

Some helpful tips

Doyle Nick
Choosing and Evaluating a Dentist
Photo by Caroline LM on Unsplash

In each of our recent three articles about dental care, we mentioned that in our quest for comfortable, attractive, functional oral health, there are several essential things that professionals do for us that we cannot do for ourselves.

For optimum oral health, almost every person should visit a dental professional on a regular, personalized schedule. If you are one of millions of people who do not have a regular dentist either because you have chosen to avoid them, you have recently relocated, or because of some other barrier, you may decide to remedy this situation so that prevention and early, simple, comfortable, inexpensive treatment characterizes your dental experience.

So how does one recognize and evaluate a dentist? First, “just any dentist,” even a highly competent one, may not be the doctor for you. Personalities, expectations, and other factors such as clinic policy must mesh as well. And of course, what we all want is a trustworthy, skillful, compassionate dentist who does the highest quality work.

First, a couple of ways not to choose a dentist: Online referral sites are often little more than paid advertisements, so be skeptical unless you find an evaluation site with many, many patient comments, of which the overwhelming majority are positive. Also, do not choose a dentist based on price. In dentistry as in many other things, the least-expensive thing sometimes becomes much more expensive in the long run, and high fees don’t ensure quality. Fancy ubiquitous advertising may not be dependable either.

Asking trusted friends who have a long-term relationship with a dentist is a good start, especially if several friends recommend the same dentist. When you first contact the dental office, you can begin to get a feel for the team’s attitudes. Does the receptionist listen? Do they answer questions gladly about fees, timing, etc.? Do they explain office policy, and are they pleasant?

When you meet the dentist, is he or she confident, kind, patient, and communicative? Are you shown the condition of your mouth? Are treatment options presented and long-term consequences explained? Are you invited to help with decision-making? Does he or she understand your limitations regarding finances or scheduling, and suggest ways to address your personal needs?

During your first appointment, are you briefed on what will happen and how it will affect you? Is your feedback sought and your feelings, your anxiety, or concerns heeded? Is the dentist rushed or patient? Is instruction offered for effective oral hygiene? Does the dentist take X-rays and check your gums, soft tissues, and head and neck? Is the dentist careful not to hurt you?

Finally, you should be confident that if there are emergencies or problems in the future, your dentist will be responsive, concerned, and fair.

Good oral health is an essential part of overall health, and we know that God, in His mercy and love, wishes for us vibrant whole-person health. When we have this health, it is much easier to have a “mouth . . . filled with laughter, and [a] tongue with singing” (Ps. 126:2).

Doyle Nick