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How to choose a good dentist

Updated on April 9, 2013
Finding the right dentist is half the battle, selecting a good one may take some effort.
Finding the right dentist is half the battle, selecting a good one may take some effort.

Some ideas to help you choose the right dental office

On many occasions you may require a new dental office, your regular dentist retired, your might be in need of a special service that your current dentist is not able to provide or the most common reason, you've recently moved.

Most of us know we need a dentist but don't really know how to select a good one. Unless you are very familiar with the dental industry, it's difficult to know what questions to ask or what to look for when choosing a good dentist. I wrote this article based on my personal frustrations over the years and I hope it will give you some insights and ideas the next time you have to select a dental office.

Before you begin the selection process, ask yourself a few questions:

  1. Do you prefer to have a dentist near your home or work? - if you have treatments, you may need to visit the dental office multiple times. A dentist near your work may offer you more flexibility and less time off work.
  2. Do you prefer to have a dentist near your home that accepts early morning, late evening, and weekend appointments? - Many dental offices close on Friday and Saturday, this is usually listed on their website or their online listings and will help you in making your selection.

Source to collecting a prospective list of dental offices:

Dental refferral service - These services allow you to find prospective dental offices based on criterias you define, but try to remember these are services that charge each dentist a monthly subscription in order to direct new patients to them. You still need to make your own evaluation to ensure you picked the right office for you.

Friends and Family: If you are searching for a dentist near your work, ask your co-workers who they go to and what they like about them. A personal referral is generally the best. Again, your criteria for a good dentist might be different.

Online Search: A quick Google search should lead you to plenty of results for the specific area you're searching for, read what other people have to say about the dental office, look at their office hours to make sure it will fit your schedule. Beware of controlled reviews, services such as DemandForce are available to dental offices. These services allow the dentist to review and only choose the good reviews to post, they also block the general public from placing a review directly on Google, Yahoo, Bing and other search engines. So if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. There are many other sites specific to the health industry such as wellness and healthgrades. These sites allow users to rate health professionals based on criterias specific to the patient's needs.

Dental Office Website: Most online listings link back to the dental office website, the dental office's website should be more informative and less commercial. It should give you an overview of the office, the staff, the services provided, and provide educational material to help you understand your oral health. Many sites offer online dental videos that help you visually understand dental treatments and what to expect on your first visit.  If you are seeking cosmetic enhancements, look for actual before and after pictures.  You can easily determine if the photographs are enhanced or purchased.  Many dental websites come pre-packaged with before and after pictures. If you're not sure, call and ask the office.

Once you've compiled a list of few dental offices, it's time for you to make your own evaluation and judgement by placing a call. If your schedule allows it, stop by the offices you've selected to make a first impression evaluation.


  1. How many dentists work in this office? - It's important to have an ongoing relationship with the same dentist and not have to see multiple dentists. Your personal dentist will have a better understanding of your needs as a patient, you prefer to have vaseline on your lips to minimize cracking, your back doesn't allow you to sit in the chair for very long, you have to take a break standing up every so often. Your dentist will know these details from the first visit and stay within your comfort zone. Since these personal details are not generally documented by most dentists in the patient chart, seeing a different dentist the next time can be quite frustrating.
  2. Is the dentist a professional member of industry organizations? - Having a dentist involved in professional organizations such as American Dental Association, allows the dentist to meet with colleagues and stay up to date on the latest innovations and techniques by dedicating his time to many continued education courses. Many dentists have a respect for the profession they serve but you want a dentist that is willing to advance with the times and offer you the best available in the industry.
  3. What other dental services are offered besides the general services? - Incase you are in need of a special service such as root canal or an extraction, it's quite convenient and less costly to have all your needs met in one office and not have to go through the process of evaluating someone else. Many experienced dentists are qualified and capable of performing these special services without referring you out to someone else.
  4. Is the dentist accepting your dental insurance and is he a preferred provider? - This is quite a comfusing subject for most patients, almost all dental offices will tell you they accept your dental insurance if you have a PPO plan. Finding a contracted dentist means the dentist has agreed to accept the discounted fees from your insurance company. This decreases your co-pay responsibilities, 20 percent of $700 is a lot less than 20 percent of $1000. Most dental insurance plans have a yearly maximum such as $1500 per year, by finding a contracted dentist your yearly maximum will last longer. It is always the patient's responsibility to understand their dental plan, but a good dental office, should take the time to answer your questions and explain your coverage in detail.
  5. Does the office offer a payment plan? - Many dental offices require immediate payments, some may offer payment plans such as CareCredit. You need to make sure you are comfortable with their financial policies.

OBSERVATIONS (on the phone or in person)

First Impression - Most of us are equipped with a "gut feeling", and should listen to it. If you were able to visit the office, Did you feel comfortable when you walked in? - The thought of visiting a dentist is stressful enough for most, the office should have an anxiety-free, friendly environment, this usually helps to ease a lot of the anxiety most of us feel when visiting the dentist for treatments. Did the office look clean and organized?, was there many patients in the waiting room that looked frustrated for waiting too long.

Staff- Did the staff greet you or were they pre-occupied with their daily routine. During your relationship with the dental office, you will have to interact with the staff just as much as the dentist, it's best to feel comfortable and at ease, otherwise you will run into uncomfortable situations in the future.  If you get the chance to meet the doctor, trust your gut feeling, what was your first impression, did he look genuine and friendly?

Now that you've evaluated the few dental offices on your list, pick the one that fits your needs the most and make an initial appointment where you can evaluate the dentist himself.  It seems like a lot to think about, but remember you want to make sure that who you choose will be responsible for your oral health and you want them to care about it as much as you do.

Good Luck!


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