When it comes to tooth care, it’s always best to see the same dentist regularly. You’ll establish a relationship, and that dentist will get to know all your individual needs, from anxieties to allergies. Plus you’ll have a history together. “They will be familiar with what’s gone on in your mouth,” says Dr. Bruce Ward, a dentist for over 35 years in North Vancouver. “The more work the dentist has put in, the more responsibility the dentist will have for it. If anything happens down the road, it makes a difference how it’s taken care of.”
But how do you find a dentist who’s right for you? These five steps will guide you in your search.
1. Getting a referral
If you’re moving to a new community, it’s always helpful to ask your current dentist if she can recommend someone. But don’t stop there. Check with your family doctor or neighbourhood pharmacist for referrals. Use your social network: Put the word out to friends, relatives and even parents of your kids’ friends to let them know you’re looking. “I think word of mouth is most effective, if you’ve got somebody who says ‘this one’s awesome,’” says Ward.
If you don’t yet know many people in your new neighbourhood, you can look in the Yellow Pages or search the Internet, keeping in mind not everything that’s advertised may be accurate! Many provincial or territorial dental associations have websites with helpful search tools for dentists in specific regions.
2. Checking out the logistics
A certain new dentist may be dazzling, but how accessible is his office? Is there parking or public transportation nearby? What are the office hours? If the dentist won’t book appointments on weekends or evenings and you’re tied to your desk from Monday to Friday, it may not be a match. What about dental emergencies, like a broken tooth on a Sunday afternoon? How are they handled? What’s the fee range, and if you don’t have insurance, is a payment plan available?
If English isn’t your first language, you might want to know what other languages are spoken. If you’re a parent (or if the presence of crying children makes you nervous), you may wish to find out if children are welcomed by the practice. All of these questions can be answered before you even set foot in the dentist’s door.
3. Placing a call
Phone the front-desk staff to find out whether the dentist is accepting new patients. While you’re at it, ask about some of the logistics you’re still wondering about. This is also your chance to check out any attitude. “How does the receptionist treat you?” says Ward. “Are the staff friendly? Do they make you feel good?” If you’re left on hold indefinitely, if the staff seem snappish and rushed, or if they don’t seem to know the answers to any of your questions, it may not be a good sign.
4. Paying a visit
Go and see the place in person. Is it easy to get to, and did it take you a reasonable amount of time? Are the waiting room and offices neat, clean and well-organized? Are you treated with courtesy when you arrive? What’s your sense of the overall atmosphere – do you feel comfortable in this environment?
5. Talking with the doc
At your first visit, ask the dentist about her approach to treatment. Does she explain things clearly, and is prevention part of her oral care plan? Dentists differ in things like their emphasis on cosmetic dentistry, or how frequently they require an x-ray. “You should have a pretty good idea about what you want for yourself, and see how they fit in with that,” says Ward. Most important of all, this introductory chat with the dentist will help you decide how comfortable you are with her. Do you find you can communicate easily, and does she listen to your questions and concerns?
It may take some doing to find the best dentist-patient fit. But the long-term payoff for you-and your teeth-will be well worth it.