How To Choose a Family Dentist
Many people feel anxious about going to the dentist, making the decision of finding the right dentist a difficult one. What do you look for in a dentist? Some may not take the time to think about this, but it is important to know that the choice you make works for you.
It is often said that the best form of marketing is word of mouth (no pun intended!). Family, friends and colleagues can likely recommend a good dentist, someone who treats them the way they want to be treated as a patient. If you are moving neighbourhoods or cities, your current dentist may also be able to recommend a dentist close to your new home or place of work.
The other question is what defines a good dentist? Responses to this vary and can be quite personalized, but as a practicing dentist myself, I know specifically what I am looking for when I choose a dentist.
The first is convenience. How accessible is the dentist’s office to my home or work, and do the office hours fit my schedule? This scheduling includes Saturdays, especially when it is next to impossible for many people to schedule dental appointments during work hours.
The second is the dental office itself. Is it clean and well-organized, as all good healthcare facilities should be? Visit the office. Look for order and organization in the reception area, at the front desk and in the areas where the dentist, dental assistants and hygienists work. Everything should be tidy and in place.
The third is the dental equipment and instruments. The equipment should be up to date and spotless. The dental instruments must be maintained according to the strictest standards of infection control, which includes steaming and wrapping them. Ask your dentist if this is the approach s/he follows and, if necessary, request a demonstration.
The fourth is the dentist’s philosophy on patient care. Does the dentist treat children? This is an important factor, especially for families looking for the convenience of going to one dental office. Is the dentist willing to answer all your questions and explain the diagnosis and treatment plan in detail? Does the dentist provide options and alternatives to the proposed treatment and listen to the patient’s input and concerns in his/her recommendations? Is the dentist easy to talk to and encourage dialogue and openness? Kindness and sensitivity go a long way in any business, but perhaps even more so in the very personal nature of dentistry.
As we all know, dental treatment can be expensive. The dentist should be able to give you a range of alternative treatments and costs after the initial complete examination and x-rays. An estimate can be submitted to your insurance company if you are fortunate enough to have insurance coverage. It would be helpful to bring in a copy of your dental coverage to the initial appointment so the staff can help you understand your coverage and minimize your out-of-pocket expense, where possible. You may be aware that Ontario dentists are encouraged to follow a fee guide. In other words, one dentist will likely charge you the same fee for dental work that another dentist would in the province of Ontario. Your dentist can show you these costs in the fee guide. When comparing costs, it is important that you compare the exact same procedure code in the fee guide.
Don’t leave the meeting with the dentist and staff until they have answered all your questions. These can include questions about office policies—missed and re-booked appointments, lead-time requirements and any other policies you can think of.
Finally, when I choose a dental office, or any other medical facility, I want to know that, along with employing the most competent people, the office has a positive spirit, staff collegiality, and willingness to engage with me. This can take the form of a brief chat on topics unrelated to my treatment needs. A question about my family, my work; a recollection of a discussion from a past visit, a smile and humour go along way. This energy and spirit are even more important during the stress that accompanies a dental procedure. A positive environment is a reminder for me that, yes, I am about to be treated by experts in their field, but also that I am interacting with people who have the same concerns and anxieties that I have. That they take the time to show an awareness of these and do everything they can to ease the anxiety of a dental visit is to me the best indicator of an excellent dental office!
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