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How To Choose A Dentist


Aesthetic Dentistry Associates' Editorial
based on abstracts from "How to be a Wise Dental Consumer," published by the American Dental Association.

Be a Discriminating Consumer!

"How to Choose a Dentist for a Lifetime of Dental Health"

 

A disconcerting joke has surfaced from time to time in medical and dental schools:

Question: "What do you call the person who graduates last in the class?"

Answer: "Doctor."

It's a fact of life: State licensing boards attempt to establish minimum standards of practice in the community. Unfortunately, most of us choose to demand more than that from those with whom we place our trust and our family's health.

Consumers not only want to know how to spend their money wisely, they want assurances about the quality of dental care they receive. Because dental care is a highly personalized health service that varies from patient to patient, it is difficult to provide hard-and-fast rules about what is "good" dentistry. The following offers some broad but useful guidelines for the consumer.

You can have a good experience with dentistry by making the right choice of a family dentist and by practicing good oral health care at home between dental visits. Be certain the practice stresses preventive care and that 24 hour emergency treatment is available. Expect the staff to be friendly and treat you as an individual, not "another mouth." The office should be comfortable, clean, and well organized. Don't be embarrassed to ask the dentist about fees. The dentist and his/her staff should be willing to discuss fees and/or financial arrangements in advance of treatment.

These are some of the primary indicators of a practioner's commitment to ethics.

Proper home hygiene can reduce the costs of dental care by preventing dental disease. In the next 2 sections you will find a discussion of (1)some of the criteria used in the selection of a dentist, and (2) some of the ways you can reduce dental bills.

 

Choosing a Dentist

For successful dental care it is important to have a family dentist who takes a sincere interest in the patient's general health. It makes sense to select and become acquainted with a dentist before a dental emergency arises. If you are a subscriber to one of the newer dental benefit modalities such as dental HMO's and capitation plans you are likely to discover this aspect of selecting a conscientious dentist a particular challenge. Nonetheless the following can still provide useful guidelines in the selection process.

Most state board licensed dentists in general practice are qualified to provide nearly all aspects of dental care. They can also provide referrals in cases where specialized treatment is required. Specialty areas in dentistry include:

  • Endodontics -- root canal therapy

  • Oral Surgery/Oral Pathology -- the identification and removal of teeth or tissues from the oral cavity.

  • Orthodontics -- braces and the repositioning of teeth.

  • Pedodontics -- care exclusively for children and teens.

  • Periodontics -- care of gums and supporting tissues.

  • Prosthodontics -- dentists specially trained for full mouth rehabilitation.

Before selecting a family dentist, you may want to consider several. Here are some of the ways you can locate qualified dentists in your area (listed in order of importance)

  • Contact a local dental specialist, such as an oral surgeon, for a referral.

  • Speak to your family physician or local pharmacist.

  • Ask friends, neighbors, co-workers, clergy, etc. to recommend a dentist.

  • Speak to faculty members of dental schools in your area.

  • Call or write a nearby hospital that has an accredited dental service.

  • Check the ADA directory, which can be found in many public libraries and in all dental school libraries.

 

Reducing your Dental Bills

The key to reducing dental costs is prevention. There is a lot that you can do to avoid serious dental problems.

Regular dental checkups are an essential part of any prevention program. If you see your dentist regularly, any dental problems you have can be treated in their early stages. If you see a dentist only in an emergency, when you already have a serious problem, treatment may be much more costly. In the long run, nothing is more economical than the regular dental checkup.

Periodically, your dentist may ask you to have an X-ray examination. X-rays help your dentist find hidden conditions that can threaten your oral or general health. Treating these conditions at an early stage often prevents more serious damage and the need for more expensive treatment later.

The ADA recommends that dentists take X-rays only after consideration of their patients' individual needs. Your dentist should request that you have an X-ray examination only when it will benefit you.
You may have heard or read statements that question the safety of dental X-ray examinations. There is little reason for you to be concerned about safety when modern techniques and equipment are used. X-ray examinations are a necessary part of complete, comprehensive dental care.

Preventive techniques, such as topical fluoride applications and pit and fissure sealants have reduced many dental problems. But these techniques cannot save your teeth and reduce your dental costs unless you and your family share the responsibility for your own oral health. Brushing and flossing the teeth thoroughly at least once a day is necessary to remove plaque. Plaque is the thin film of bacteria that forms on everyone's teeth and causes dental caries (tooth decay) and periodontal (gum) disease. Using a fluoride mouthrinse and dentifrice (toothpaste or gel) accepted by the ADA's Council on Dental Therapeutics helps make teeth stronger and more resistant to decay. Eating nutritious meals and limiting the number of snacks you eat is also important for maintaining your oral health.

The Use of Fluoride Millions of people now drink water than contains the right amount of fluoride for good dental health. Fluoridation of a community's water supply can give residents of that community better dental health for a very small annual cost.
Because fluoride is incorporated into the enamel as the tooth is being formed, it is of special benefit to children. Children who drink fluoridated water from birth have from 50 to 65% fewer cavities. When they are teenagers, 20% of them will still be caries-free. Even as adults, they will continue to have improved dental health, for the benefits of fluoride are lifelong.

Besides drinking fluoridated water, your family can get the protection of fluoride in other ways: Fluoride toothpastes and mouthrinses can be used at home. (Those with the seal of the ADA's Council on Dental Therapeutics have been proved effective.) Fluoride mouthrinses can also be used as part of a school mouthrinse program. Fluoride solutions or gels may be applied to your teeth by your dentist or dental hygienist. Fluoride may be added to the school water supply if the local water supply is not fluoridated or if there is no central water supply. Chewable fluoride tablets may be prescribed for your children if the water supply in your community is not fluoridated.

Fluoride is inexpensive, safe, and effective. Every major American health organization supports the use of fluoride. Ask your dentist how your family can best obtain the benefits of fluoride.

 

Financial Aid

If you or your family need financial aid to obtain dental care, you can contact your local dental society for information on dental care programs for which you may qualify. The dental society knows what assistance programs are available and can refer you to low-cost dental care centers, such as public health clinics and dental school clinics. In dental school clinics, care is provided by graduate dentists or dental students under the careful supervision of faculty experts. The fees charged are minimal, usually intended to cover the cost of materials and equipment only.

Dental care for children and, in some states, for adults is available through Medicaid, a federal-state program designed to provide medical assistance for low-income persons. You can obtain information about this program and the extent of dental care available from your state or county department of public welfare.

Disclaimer: Aesthetic Dentistry Associates does not present a listing of dentists since we cannot possibly verify their skills, ethics, or credentials. As an accommodation to our viewers, however, other links that do provide listings of dentists are presented without comment.



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