How to Choose a Dentist

How to Choose a Dentist

Choosing a healthcare provider is an important decision. Finding a professional worthy of your trust to treat and prevent illness — perhaps not only for yourself but also for your family — is a task to take seriously, rather than left to chance. Our team at NK Family Dental always emphasizes that dental health is part of overall health. For this reason, we offer the following advice on choosing a dentist — from researching professional credentials to questions to ask during the consultation, and what you need to look for when you visit the office. We’ll also cover “red flags” that indicate the practice you’re considering may not be right for you.

Why Your Choice of Dentist is Important

Your dentist should be more than someone you see twice a year for a cleaning and oral exam or visit when you have a toothache. A good dentist will be your partner in helping you achieve and maintain optimum oral health by recognizing and treating conditions — such as periodontal disease — in their early stages, as well as recommending a regular oral health routine for you to follow at home, based upon your individual situation.

 Dr. Cathy Taylor-Osborne — director of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s Bureau of Oral Health — writes the following for MouthHealthy — an oral health information website presented by the American Dental Association (ADA):

“Your dental health is such a vital part of your overall health, so it’s important for every patient to have a dental home. That means there is always someone looking out for the best interest of you and your family.” In this way, having a dental home allows you to feel comfortable when you’re dropping in for a regular visit and provides you with a safe, trusted place to turn for a procedure or dental emergency. Our blog post — “How to Prepare for a Dental Emergency” — highlights the advantage of having a regular dentist to call to receive care as soon as possible.

If you are also seeking a dentist for your child, you may want to find one whose practice includes pediatric (child) dentistry. This is a specialty area for many reasons, and not every dental practice is conducive to treating children. NK Family Dental provides comprehensive pediatric dentistry, giving your child the very best start for a lifetime of excellent oral health in a calming, supportive environment. Most dental practices do not offer specific pediatric treatment. While such a practice can offer high-quality, conscientious treatment for adults, you most likely will need to look elsewhere for a pediatric dentist.

Factors to Consider When Looking for a Dentist

Looking for a new dentist isn’t something you do on a regular basis, so knowing what you need to take into consideration will give you the ability to make a good choice. The following tips are courtesy of MouthHealthy, HealthGrades, and DentistryIQ:

Research credentials — Board certification is one of the most important factors when choosing a dentist. It tells you that the dentist has the necessary training, skills, and experience to provide healthcare in general dentistry. Also, confirm that the dentist has no history of malpractice claims or disciplinary actions. You can find the dentist’s medical school, training hospital, certifications, and malpractice and disciplinary history on and state websites.

Look for ADA membership Dentists who are ADA members have agreed to follow the ADA Principles of Ethics and Code of Professional Conduct and made a professional promise to put your health and well-being first. The ADA’s free online Find-A-Dentist tool allows you to search by name, location, and specialty for member dentists.

Read patient reviews — Reading what other people have to say about a dentist can provide insight into how a dentist practices general dentistry, as well as how his or her dental practice is operated. Patient reviews typically reflect people’s experience with scheduling appointments, wait times, office environment, and office staff friendliness. You can learn how well patients trust the dentist, how much time he or she spends with their patients, and how well he or she answers questions.

Visit their website and social media accounts A dental practice’s website provides valuable information about services, specialties, and other pertinent facts. For example, you may learn that a dentist is good at putting anxious patients at ease. Active social media accounts indicate that the practice values engaging with patients by sharing news and photos of office activities.

If you have dental insurance, know what your plan covers You chose dental insurance to save money. To receive the most benefits and pay the least out-of-pocket for your care, you may need to choose a dentist who participates in your plan. You should still consider credentials, experience, outcomes, and the quality of the office as you select an in-network dentist.

Schedule a consultation Schedule a consultation time to meet with the dentist and staff before making an appointment. Compile a list of questions and bring your records so the dentist can look at your dental history if you want to ask something specific. You’ll also be able to see if the office is welcoming, comfortable, and neat.

A few questions you might want to ask include:

  • Will the dentist explain ways to help you prevent dental health problems? Is dental health instruction provided?
  • How do the dentist and office staff handle emergencies outside of office hours?
  • Is the office staff familiar with your benefit plan (if applicable), and do they offer financing options for treatment costs?
  • Will your medical and dental history be recorded and placed in a permanent file?

Look around the office and ask about their technology — The overall impression you get should be of a clean, well-ordered environment. Most offices have intraoral cameras to show you what’s going on in your mouth and digital X-ray equipment. The office should be computerized, instead of using paper charts. We’re getting a little ahead of ourselves here, but old equipment, shabby waiting room furniture, and a general disorganized vibe are signs that you need to continue your search.

Ask what will happen at your new patient appointment — There should be time to talk to the dentist and staff to understand or establish your oral health goals. An office that offers this opportunity is dedicated to providing comprehensive care.

How Not to Choose a Dentist – And Red Flags to Watch Out For 

Convenient location — Your time is valuable, but so is your oral health. The dentist who is closest to your home or office isn’t necessarily the best for you. If, after you’ve done your research and due diligence that turns out to be the case, great! Otherwise, you could be trading the skilled, competent care you need for convenience.

The cost factor Budgets are real, and most people economize wherever and whenever possible. But looking for a bargain in a dentist can not only negatively impact your oral health, but it can also ultimately wind up costing you extra.

As Amanda Hill, BSDH, RDH states for DentistryIQ, “Selecting someone who doesn’t have the expertise you need or someone who only treats issues when they’re true problems — as opposed to looking for the why behind all the cavities you keep getting or the receding gums that cause sensitivity — could, in the long run, cost you time and teeth.

“Often the least expensive dentistry isn’t the most comprehensive; for example, you might have a rather large cavity in a tooth, and while you could put a big filling in it for less money, down the road, that tooth could crack, need a root canal, or worse yet, need to be pulled and an implant placed. So, for the price of an excellent-fitting crown the first time, you could have saved thousands of dollars.”

Because a friend tells you their dentist is “nice” — While rapport is crucial in any relationship with a healthcare provider, “nice” doesn’t always correlate to the quality of care you’ll receive.

“You can ask to see examples of their dentistry; look at before and after pictures and X-rays of recent crowns they have done,” says Hill. “How does their dentistry look to you? Does it look natural or like bright white Chiclets? When you look at an X-ray there shouldn’t be dark spots or ledges around crowns. Ask them to explain what you’re looking at and why they’re exceptional at what they do.”

Watch out for the following As previously mentioned, pay attention to the overall cleanliness and condition of the office. Worn-out furniture could indicate the practice doesn’t have enough patients to be able to afford better. Take note of the attitude of the front desk staff, dental assistants, etc. If they seem overly stressed, rude, or dismissive toward you, working conditions may not be good — or the dentist doesn’t care about the quality of the staff.

Look at the age and condition of equipment, such as the X-ray machine and the dental chair. The dental chair is part of the dental unit, which consists of specific parts that also include the dental chair, stool, lighting, hydric box, aspiration, cuspidor, and other elements. All imaging equipment and the dental unit should be up-to-date and functioning efficiently. If they aren’t, continue your search.

How does the dentist impress you? If he/she doesn’t answer your questions to your satisfaction — or doesn’t want to answer them at all — seems dismissive of your concerns, etc., this particular dentist might not be right for you, even if the reviews you’ve read are mostly positive. Also, note how he/she speaks to the dental assistant and other staff members. Does the dentist treat them in a professional manner, or seem angry, impatient, or annoyed? Your dentist doesn’t have to be your best buddy, but you do need to have a good doctor-patient relationship based on respect. If you don’t feel you get that during the consultation, keep looking.

Last, but certainly not least, you should never feel that you are being pressured to consent to extensive, expensive treatment. This can be a situation in practices that heavily promote cosmetic dentistry. After a consultation and recommendation for crowns or veneers, the patient may be led to a room by someone other than the dentist and given a form to sign consenting to the recommended work — which may cost several thousands of dollars. You need to take the time to consider the proposed treatment, your budget, and your payment plan. Do not sign any form or document before you are comfortable with your decision. If you feel pressured to do so, leave, and find another dentist.

The Take-Home Message

Whether you need to find a new dentist because you’ve just moved, your current dentist is retiring or relocating, or you’re not satisfied with the treatment you’ve been receiving, the process can be less stressful if you know how to go about it. We hope we’ve provided a helpful guide on your journey to connecting with a dentist who will be your trusted partner in caring for your oral health!

Our team of experienced, dedicated dental professionals will help address your oral health concerns, and determine the best solution for you based on your individual situation. We strive to identify treatment options that fit your needs.

We understand that the main concern you may have is cost, which is why we accept all major PPO plans for dental insurance and also offer our in-house dental plan. Please see our financing page for more information.

At NK Family Dental, it is our mission to provide the highest quality and most compassionate oral care to our Chicago patients, including both dental and periodontal services. Our practice is trusted for advanced oral surgery procedures and comfortable root canal treatment.

Our dental specialists include our general dentist, Dr. Nilofer Khan, our endodontist, Dr. Sabek, and our periodontist, Dr. Amir Danesh. Dr. Danesh is a board-certified periodontist and Diplomat of the American Board of Periodontology. He has contributed to the publication of two books, as well as published over 20 papers in prestigious dental research journals.

We serve the neighborhoods of Logan Square, Bucktown, Humboldt Park, and Wicker Park with the dedication that’s earned us the reputation as the Best Dentist in Chicago!

Schedule your visit through ZocDoc, or contact us directly. We look forward to treating you soon! 


Leave a Reply