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.