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Good oral health is a vital part of your overall health and wellbeing. And, choosing the right dentist is an important step that makes it possible for you to maintain and to achieve optimal oral health at any age.

Your family dentist is your primary oral healthcare provider. They help prevent dental issues before they even begin—treating many common dental conditions, restoring lost function, and enhancing your smile’s aesthetics. Because your family dentist manages so many aspects of your oral healthcare, it is essential to find a dentist who sufficiently meets your needs and who consistently provides a comfortable and positive experience.

Choosing a dentist is a personal decision. After all, you’re going to let them into your mouth! Here are five things to consider—along with some questions you should always ask—that will help you choose the right dentist for both you and your family.

Scope of services

Since all family dentists are equally certified in general dentistry, it can be hard to distinguish between one dentist and another. You want a dental practice that is the right fit for your specific needs. Before making that decision, it is important to understand the scope of services that a practice provides, so that you can receive as many of the preventative, restorative, and cosmetic services you need all in one place. Consider the dental care you and your family are seeking, and use the following questions as a framework to gauge the completeness of a dental practice’s offerings:

General preventative care

General preventative care is the cornerstone of a family dental practice and is a service you should expect to be exceptional. All general preventative care provided through routine exams and cleanings aims to prevent common dental issues, such as tooth decay and gum disease, before they begin or worsen. When choosing a dentist, consider your and your family’s individual dental needs, and ask yourself the following:

Cavity repair. You have choices when it comes to filling materials. While some dentists still default to amalgam (mercury) fillings, health concerns have led other dentists to use resin and composite fillings instead. Consider what type of filling you’re comfortable with and ensure your dentist offers it.

Use of technology. Does this dentist utilize modern technology such as sedation techniques, digital X-rays, and laser dentistry to maximize comfort, efficiency, and accuracy?

Deep cleanings. Does this dentist specialize in deeper cleanings such as root planing and scaling to further prevent tooth decay and gum disease?

Restorative care

Restorative care helps you reclaim the function and appearance of damaged or missing teeth. Consider your current dental situation as you ask yourself the following:

Damaged teeth. Does this dentist specialize in restoring the function and aesthetics of teeth that are cracked, broken, or decayed?

Missing teeth. Does this dentist specialize in replacing the function and aesthetics of missing teeth through bridges and/or implants?

Cosmetic care

Did you know that your oral health and your smile’s appearance can impact your sense of self-esteem and your overall confidence? As the primary care provider for overall oral healthcare, many family dentists now offer treatments to enhance the appearance of their patients’ teeth. If you’re looking for a family dentist who can also update your smile’s appearance, investigate their training, and ask yourself the following:

Whitening. Does this dentist offer a range of whitening services, including at-home and in-office treatments?

Corrections. Does this dentist specialize in correcting gaps, misalignments, discoloration, broken teeth, and “gummy smiles” with dental bonding or porcelain veneers?

Convenience

You’ll be more likely to keep your dental appointments if you don’t have to overcome a major schedule interruption or an inconvenient commute. Consider your and your family’s schedules, and ask the following:

Scheduling. Does this dentist offer appointment times that fit into my and my family’s schedules?

Location. Is this dentist conveniently located from my work, home, or school?

How they help you afford your care

Knowing how willing your dentist is to work with you so that you can comfortably afford your care eliminates financial ambiguity and can help you chart your best course of action before proceeding with your necessary dental treatments. When you’re choosing your dentist, always consider the following:

Insurance. Does this dentist accept my insurance plan?

Memberships and self-pay plans. Does this dentist assist self-pay patients with a membership discount or with payment plan options?

Office culture

Finding a dental office that aligns with your desired experience and values will make going to the dentist that much easier and more enjoyable. As you consider what’s important to you in your dental experience, ask yourself the following:

Staff interactions. Does the staff always make you feel seen, heard, welcome, and respected?

Availability. Does the staff display excellent customer service by responding promptly and kindly to phone calls and messages?

Company values. Does the company actively participate in and give back to the community?

Online reviews

Humans have an innate negativity bias—we’re more likely to remember something negative than something positive. So, if a patient takes the time to write a positive review, it is most likely the result of exceptional care that made a meaningful difference. When reviewing a practice’s online reviews, ask yourself the following:

Balance. Do the positive reviews outweigh the negative?

Patterns. What do patients consistently say about this practice?

Once you’ve chosen a dentist that both meets your needs and satisfies your criteria, you can sit back, relax…and smile! With a good at-home oral hygiene routine and a dentist you enjoy seeing, you’ve officially paved the way for you and your family to enjoy the countless benefits that good oral health brings.

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