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Choosing a Dentist

Be honest – if you're like most people the only time you think about going to the dentist is when your tooth cracks in the middle of eating a really great batch of Rocky Road. But an emergency is not the time to go looking for a dentist who you should be seeing every six months for regular exams and cleaning.

So what should you look for when you're deciding who your dentist should be? And once you’ve paid them a visit, how should you reflect back on the experience?

The starting point

Think of your dentist as your partner in looking after your teeth, mouth and gums, someone you’ll see on a regular basis over many years. Much like your hairdresser or mechanic, you should find someone you like and stick with them. One great way to begin your search is the ADA’s Find a Dentist service which locates dentists near you. Word of mouth is also a great tool – who do your friends and family like and why? The odds are good that if they like them, you'll like them. If you're moving, ask your existing dentist if there's anyone they'd recommend, or once you've made the move, check with a local doctor for their connections. You should approach finding a dentist as a long-term proposition. Seeing the same dentist over a long period of time provides you with a consistently high level of service, commonly referred to as "continuity of care", that cannot be matched by chopping-and-changing dentists. This can be compromised by private health insurers who are increasingly seeking to convince their customers to use their “contracted dentists” or “preferred providers” as they term them, with the promise of reduced out-of-pocket expenses. However, what you may gain financially will likely be outweighed by the loss of continuity of care with your dentist.

Things you should look for

When you're evaluating your list of candidates, it’s worth keeping these key questions in mind: Do you want your dentist close to work or home? Do they offer after-hours/emergency care? Is it close to public transport and adequate parking? What kind of services do they offer? Do they participate in government schemes such as the Child Dental Benefits Schedule and Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate Scheme?

Evaluating your first visit

Once you’ve been to the dentist, it's worth asking yourself these questions: Were the dentist and the practice staff friendly and approachable? Were they able to provide information about fees, appointments and service availability? Did the dentist explain what they were doing and did they do it in a way you could understand? Were your concerns addressed? Did the dentist talk to you about preventive care, such as brushing and flossing? Was the practice well-run, clean and inviting? Was the waiting room pleasant to be in?

from the ADA website.

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