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Choosing a Dentist

© Flora Parsa Stay DDS
 (Excerpted from The Complete Book of Dental Remedies, Avery Publishing Group, 1996)

There are many factors to consider when choosing a dentist or, for that matter, any practitioner. One major factor should be the dentist's ability to perform techniques properly. Ability may be influenced by the dentist's educational background and number of years in practice. Other common factors to consider include the dentist's attitude or level of caring for your condition, cost of treatment, and, last but not least, the appearance of the office or place where the treatment is rendered- are the surroundings clean? Do you feel comfortable there?

In choosing a dentist, you will need to answer the following questions:

How Do I Begin Looking for the Right Dentist?
Getting referrals from friends or family members is a good way to start looking for a dentist. If you have no personal referrals, you can also get names from a dental referral service, such as 1-800-DENTIST or 1-800-DENTAL-911. Be aware, however, that such services are nothing more than fee-for-service agencies. The dentist pays a monthly fee to the agency, who in turn, provides interested callers with general information about the dentist and his or her practice. Such information includes the dentist's educational background and years in practice, as well as the office location. Local dental societies and hospitals also provide referrals, but like the agencies, they offer only general information about the dentist. The last place you should look for a dentist is in the Yellow Pages, which provides nothing more than a list of licensed practitioners.

When calling different dental offices, be sure to have a list of questions on hand, such as treatment costs, insurance procedures, emergency-care availability, office hours, staff size, and available diagnostic techniques and safety devices (e.g. sterilization techniques, protection devices for x-ray radiation). When you first call an office, you will likely speak to a receptionist, who should be equipped to answer any general questions. (Dentists themselves generally do not have the time to talk with you by phone, especially if you are not already a patient.) Specific questions about your particular dental needs, however, cannot be answered until you are seen by the dentist. Most dental offices will let you set up an appointment for a short "interview" with the dentist before actually committing to treatment. During this interview you will be able to evaluate the office and see if you feel comfortable with the dentist. Unlike a "consultation"-for which there is usually a fee-an interview does not give you the opportunity to ask questions about your specific dental needs.

What Training has the Dentist had?
At least two years of college education are required before admission to dental schools; however, most dental students are college graduates. The programs provided at American dental schools are fairly similar to each other. Most schools offer a four-year course of study. The first two years involve basic medical and dental sciences as well as dental laboratory techniques, while the last two years emphasize clinical aspects of dentistry (treating patients). Once dental school is completed, students receive either a Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.) degree or a Doctor of Dental Medicine (D.M.D.) degree. There is no difference between the two degrees; some colleges call it the former and others call it the latter. Dentists who earned their degrees in foreign countries must complete a year or more of training in an accredited dental school in order to practice in the United States.

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About The Author
Flora Stay, DDS holds a doctor of dental surgery degree from University of California, San Francisco. She is the founder of Grace Advantage "Redefining Health and Beauty". She has been a clinical instructor at U.C.L.A. school of Periodontology and......more
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Disclaimer: The information provided on HealthWorld Online is for educational purposes only and IS NOT intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek professional medical advice from your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.