Not long ago it was common to get the name of a dentist from a friend, relative, or co-worker. Or maybe you'd just choose a name from the yellow pages. For better or worse, the Web affords opportunities for making a decision based on more comprehensive information.
Friends, relatives, and coworkers are still good sources for names of dentists. You can also get names from medical doctors, pharmacists, dental schools, dental insurance companies, dental specialists, and dental laboratories.
But do not overlook the Internet. Referral sites like 1800dentist.com and dentalreferral.com refer dentists by location. However, be aware that dentists pay to be listed on these sites (although there's no charge to you to use them). And remember — these are ads, not recommendations. You can also find names through Revolution Health, revolutionhealth.com, an online health site with tons of information. Consumers can enter reviews of dentists, but none of the dentists I checked had gotten reviews, as least as of the time I checked.
In addition, every state has a dental licensing board that lists every licensed dentist in the state. You can usually find your state's dental board on the state's website, often in the licensing section. Or go to Dental Watch, dentalwatch.org/org/boards.html, for links to all state dental licensing boards.
Evaluating the Dentists
Once you have a list of prospective dentists you're satisfied with, you can evaluate and compare each to decide which one is for you. Here's a simple evaluation process:
First, ask your dental licensing board (dentalwatch.org/org/boards.html) about each dentist on your list. Some states provide this sort of background-checking service online, but others require a call. Ask if your candidates are licensed to practice dentistry in your state. The various states have different levels of licensing; so ask about that. Once you confirm that a dentist is licensed, ask if there are any actionable complaints against that dentist. Actionable means that a complaint has been investigated and found to have merit, resulting in some action against the dentist.
However, note that dental malpractice is handled through insurance companies and the courts. Dental boards do not have that information.
Now your list has only licensed dentists without actionable complaints. Next step is a phone call to each office. Here are some questions you might want to ask.
– Ask about fees for standard procedures such as full mouth x-rays and preventive visits with oral exam and teeth cleaning so you can compare costs.
– If accessibility is a concern, find out if the office can accommodate your needs.
– If you know you need a certain procedure, make sure the dentist does it.
– Do they take your insurance? Are they willing to work out a flexible payment plan?
– Check to see if the dentist has a website. If so it could tell you a lot about the style and professionalism of that dentist.
– Compare what you've found out so far and narrow your search to two or three possibilities.
More tips for finding a good dentist are provided in the full version of this article, as cited below.