Whether you have a specific problem or are looking for a new dentist for general care, all patients should have confidence in the professional and personal qualities of their dentist. A good dentist will communicate comfortably and effectively, listen as much as he/she speaks, treat all patients with respect and dignity, and be enthusiastic about promoting good oral hygiene.
When you interview a dentist, these questions will help you get a sense of his or her qualifications, guiding principles, and bedside manner. Beware any dentist who does not welcome questions from potential patients.
1. In what areas do you specialize?
This is a great question to ask to solicit information about professional qualifications and interests. Ask about education, training, certifications, qualifications, and state license. Do they belong to any professional organizations? If they have a great amount of experience, how do they stay current on recent advances in the field? The answers you hear will tell you not only whether your dentist is a legitimate professional, but also what makes him/her special, and reveal the underlying beliefs and philosophies that lead him to the dental profession.
2. How do you ensure patient satisfaction?
A good dentist will have systems in place to make sure no patients walk away unsatisfied with their treatment. In today’s electronic world of online review sites and apps, a good dentist will know that routinely unhappy customers can harm their business, and will go the extra mile to make sure your care is happily received and valued.
3. Do you offer free consultations?
This doesn’t apply as much to routine care as much as it does to cosmetic treatments and advanced restorations. Most dental practices today offer some level of cosmetic dentistry, in addition to preventive and restorative dentistry, since keeping teeth healthy and beautiful go hand-in-hand. If a patient is considering cosmetic treatments, the dentist should be prepared to fully explain the process and answer questions about it before a commitment or financial investment is given. Treatments should never be coerced or initiated before you, the patient, understand all the factors, and have made the decision to proceed.
4. Do you have payment plans?
Many Americans do not have medical insurance, and even more lack quality dental insurance. Practical and compassionate dentists today will have systems in place to help patients get access to vital dental care, even for those with financial limitations. How a dentist answers this question will help you understand his or her commitment to oral health care and education.
5. How do you diagnose oral health problems?
Seeing a dentist for preventive treatments is routine, and most dental offices will have similar procedures in place for six-month visits. However, making sure you have a great dentist will really make a difference when you have a problem. Whether it’s a toothache, TMJ pain, a gum infection, or something worse—you want a dentist who makes full use of the diagnostic tools and body of medical research available in the industry. A good dentist will not jump to the most obvious conclusion when a patient has a complaint, but will consider all possibilities and make use of diagnostic aids and current research before given a patient a definitive diagnosis.
6. Will you give me a written treatment plan?
When an oral health problem is detected, be it cavities, infection, gum disease, impacted teeth, or otherwise, your dentist should make it a routine procedure to provide you with a written diagnosis and itemized treatment plan and timeline. A good dentist will have this information in his records as a matter of routine and sharing these details is critical to the patient/provider relationship. Beware any dentist who treats problems “on instinct” or without a methodical, documented, plan.
7. What advanced technology do you use?
From digital x-rays, to laser dentistry, there are a number of recent innovations that can enhance a dentist’s ability to diagnose and treat dental problems. Even if your dentist does not make full use of every technology available, he or she should be aware of recent advances and be applying some of those innovations to patient care. Look for a dentist who is proud of the enhanced capabilities of the technology they use and is excited about innovations in dental science.
8. What is the connection between dental health and whole body wellness?
With an ever-growing body of medical research indicating that oral health and medical health are connected, you want a dentist who doesn’t keep his head in the sand. A good dentist will want to know about your overall health when treating you, as many common medical conditions have dental implications that can advise proper care. He or she should also be able to confidently explain the medical consensus regarding gum disease and it’s link to heart disease, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and other serious medical conditions.
Trust Your Gut!
Regardless of what questions you ask, what’s important is that you do ask. Meeting with a provider before you decide to become a patient is a great way to assess your own comfort level with the dentist, as well as his/her dental hygiene and office staff. Trust your intuition. If you don’t feel welcomed, or if your questions are belittled, take your business elsewhere. There are many excellent dentists in every community, and your oral health is too important to trust with someone who doesn’t value your inquiry.