For many people, choosing a new dentist becomes a bit of an afterthought. When people move to new area, they often select a school, family doctor, mechanic, or even a local burger joint before deciding on a dentist. While I can understand the logic behind the first two, finding a dentist should not be taken lightly since he or she will be a partner in the overall health of your family for many years. Although it may seem like a tough task, there are a number of criteria that you can use to find the right professional to safeguard your family’s oral health.

Request Out-of-Network Options

Often, dentists agree to be part of a network due to incentives which conflict with patient needs. For example, insurance plans will offer low reimbursements for standard services such as cleaning and exams in exchange for a reliable stream of patients. Consequently, many dentists will make up the difference by pushing services you don’t need that aren’t covered by your plan.  For this reason, it’s generally a bad idea to limit yourself to a list of dentists from your insurance company.  Instead, inquire about out-of-network options. Always keep in mind that being covered by an insurance company isn’t the same thing as a referral from friends, family or co-workers.

Ask for Referrals

Friends, neighbors, co-workers are always a good place to begin because a positive firsthand experience is one of the most important reliable sources you can find. Nevertheless, be sure to ask your referral if they’ve had work done in addition to cleanings and x-rays such as a new bridge or a crown replacement. Good cleanings may only signal a competent hygienist while more involved procedures are a better test of a dentist’s competence. In addition, don’t be shy about getting a recommendation from your current dentist if you’re moving to a new area.

Check Out Those Google My Business Reviews

It’s always worthwhile to search for reviews on Google My Business. It’s a natural step to see what others are saying about a dental practice. As most people know by now, however, not all reviews are trustworthy. For this reason, it helps to look for reviews with details about their dental visit and which procedure they underwent. The more specific they are, the better chance of them being accurate and helpful.

Search for American Dental Association Members

A great resource to take advantage of is the American Dental Association’s Find-a-Dentist tool. It enables you not only to search by name but also by location and even specialty. It’s important to realize that the ADA sets standards for the industry by requiring its members to adhere to the ADA Code. Some of these standards include involving patients in treatment decisions, keeping up-to-date with the latest medical developments, and avoiding any form of discrimination.

Schedule a Consultation

Once you’ve got a few names on your list, narrow it down a bit further by checking to see which ones are convenient to your home or work with office hours to match. The best dentist in the world won’t make much of a difference if she’s too far away to help with an emergency or her hours aren’t conducive to regular visits.

Now it’s time to schedule a consultation. By visiting the office, you can get a genuine feel for the business, and how they treat people before you even speak to a dentist. Basically, this is your chance to interview the dentist about their qualifications and their staff. Feel free to bring along a list of questions and even a copy of your dental records to see the type of treatment the dentist would recommend.

Here are a few important questions to ask:

  • How do they deal with emergencies outside of office hours? Most practices use a referral service or have a colleague on call if they are unable to handle the matter.
  • What type of ongoing training do the doctors undergo? In other words, are they up-to-date on the latest dental procedures?
  • Do they submit claims to every insurance provider? If a top-rated dentist in your new area is not in your network, it’s still worth checking to see if they submit claims to all providers.
  • What are their fees and payment alternatives for non-insured patients? If you don’t have dental insurance, it’s crucial to know what financing options they offer. Also, it’s always a good idea to ask for a fee schedule for common procedures.
  • Do they offer sedation dentistry for patients who have anxiety about visiting a dentist? If so, ask what type of anesthesia the dentist is board-certified to administer.

Although it may be tempting to go with one of the first dentists on your list, it’s important to take your time because your oral health is an integral part of your overall health. Often, dentists spot signs of disease before a general practitioner. For this reason, you should look for a dentist who fits into your complete health care plan. Maintaining your oral health will not only extend your lifespan but it will lead to a much better quality of life.  When I am looking for the best dentist near me, I follow these tips for better results.

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