Choosing a new dentist can be a difficult decision if you are new to an area and do not have a strong recommendation from a trusted friend. But if you put off the decision, you may be endangering your dental health with the possibility of letting cavities or gum disease go untreated.
Here are 5 key questions to help you find a new dentist and decide whether a dentist is right for you:
1. Can your friends, neighbors, or co-workers recommend a dentist?
Asking others is a good place to start in finding a new dentist. But do not just ask for names. Ask how they like the dentist they go to, how long they've been going to them, and whether they have any reservations about the dentist they see. If you get some good suggestions, include them in your research during the next steps.
2. What dentists do you find near your home or office when you type "dentist" and "your city" into Google, Yahoo, or Bing?
If you live or work in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, for example, you could do a search for "dentist Chapel Hill" and immediately see the web sites of dozens of dentists near you. Using the Google Places listings and the web sites they link to, you'll be able to gather basic information about several nearby dentists in a few minutes of searching.
3. What kinds of reviews do you find about dentists you may be interested in?
On the Google or Yahoo local search results, you'll see a few reviews for each of the dentists listed. But you can also go to review sites to find even more. If you type into Google "dentist Your City reviews," you'll get links to several review sites. A few popular ones are MerchantCircle, Yelp, and InsiderPages.
One note of caution: Do not be put off by one or two negative reviews, if all the other reviews are detailed and positive. Sometimes a disgruntled and disturbed individual may retaliate by leaving a scathing review. Also, do not be over impressed if someone has a hundred or more reviews. It is possible that they are not all real patients, but have been posted by a company that provides that service.
4. What kind of reception do you get when you call to ask questions?
When you have narrowed your list down to a few dentists that are conveniently located and have mostly good reviews, call and ask a few questions. Do you get a good feeling about the person you talk with. Do they seem willing to answer any questions without being evasive or defensive. If they seem rashed, they may have a patient waiting, so you can suggest that you'll call again when they have more time or ask them to call you back so you can ask your questions.
5. Are they taking new patients? How long before you can get an appointment? Do they accept and file your dental insurance? Do they take dental emergencies?
You may also want to ask about their fees for a basic cleaning and examination or for a crown. You should not base your decision on price alone, but if money is an issue there's no reason not to ask. Do not be afraid to ask all your questions. Do you want to know whether they offer a particular type of treatment? Do you want to know what kinds of anesthesia or relaxation methods they normally use? Ask.
If possible, you may want to drive by and make a quick visit to the dentists you are considering. You probably will not get to meet the dentist, but you can get a feel of whether the office is attractive, clean, and orderly, and whether you would feel good about going there.