If you’re moving to a new city, if your current dentist has retired, or if you’ve neglected your dental care in the past, you’ll need to find a new dentist. Whether you’re looking for a dentist in Fort Collins or another area of the country, you’ll probably have dozens—if not hundreds of options available. So how can you decide which dentist is right for you?
Understand Your Needs
Before you can determine what to look for in a new dentist, you have to consider your primary needs. To start, take some time to introspect. Are there any specific oral health conditions or complications that require special attention? Are you the type of person who experiences anxiety in the dentist’s office? Do you typically struggle with a busy schedule that makes it hard to set an appointment?
Once you know some of your main needs, you can begin to consider these factors:
- Availability. Not all dentists are actively accepting new clients. You’ll want to find a dental care provider who is both open to new patients and regularly available for appointments. If it usually takes months to set an appointment, you may want to find a more accessible provider.
- Qualifications. You’ll also want to consider the dentist’s qualifications. Dentists are required to attend four years of dental school, beyond their undergraduate coursework. They also must pass the Dental Admissions Test (DAT), run by the American Dental Association (ADA) to begin schooling, and pass a series of exams issued by the National Board of Dental Examinations (NBDE). Make sure your dentist of choice has all these qualifications.
- Experience. How long has this dentist been in practice? Generally speaking, more experienced dentists can handle more complex problems, and sometimes provide better care. That said, younger dentists have advantages too; newer curriculum tends to be more up-to-date, and younger dentists may have more energy or passion. Your personal priorities should dictate which type of dentist you pursue.
- Proximity. You may also consider the proximity of your dentist’s office. If you’re going to visit a couple times a year (as you should), you’ll want to find someplace convenient. Ideally, you’ll find an office less than 15 minutes away, though for most people, this priority is secondary to overall quality of care.
- Costs and payments. Pay attention to the costs and payment structure of your dentist as well. Does this dentist accept your current insurance plan? What are the costs to you for a routine checkup? For X-rays? For more complex procedures? You may also ask about the possibility of a payment plan for costlier procedures; if you can’t afford to pay the $1,500 upfront, can you make payments in monthly installments?
- Facility considerations. Most dentist offices will be equipped with all the basics, including dental chairs with adequate support, the proper tools for cleanings and surgeries, X-ray equipment, and computer systems. However, some facilities will be more advanced than others, offering the latest-and-greatest equipment, and materials that allow them to do what other facilities can’t. Depending on your needs, you may wish to pursue a more advanced facility.
- Online reviews. Look up online reviews for every dental office you consider. You’ll inevitably find dozens, if not hundreds of reviews issued by past and present patients. Some people will have nothing but good things to say, and some people will have nothing but bad things to say; look past these extremes, and look for commonalities in all these reviews. Is the quality of care both high and consistent? Are the staff members cordial and helpful? Is the facility always clean and comfortable? This information can help you finalize your decision.
Begin the Search
When you understand what’s most important to you, you can officially begin the search. There are several outlets you can use to find the right dentist for you. For example, you could use a local healthcare provider directory to generate a list of possibilities. You could also ask for personal recommendations from friends and family members, or search for dentists using the ADA’s website.
Meet Your Dentist in Person
No matter how impressed you are with the information you find online, you’ll want to meet your dentist in person before committing to them. Go in for a cleaning and checkup, or an initial consultation, and get a feel for how they treat you as a patient. If they offer everything you need, trust your gut to determine whether this dentist-patient relationship will ultimately work out.
If your first appointment is successful and you still feel good about the interactions, you can begin to form a long-term partnership with your dental care provider. Ideally, you’ll find someone you can work with for a period of years, for all your oral health needs.