While you are in the treatment room, notice if the chair you are sitting on has a headrest cover, and whether the dental light above the chair has disposable
covers on the handles. In general, does the equipment and the room look clean? Any signs of shortcuts or lack of cleanliness are warnings.
In addition to observing the office for cleanliness, consider the dentist's use of safety devices during certain procedures. One such device is a "dental dam"-a square rubber sheet that exposes the tooth or teeth that are being treated. Most endodontists use it to prevent contamination of the pulp chamber. Some dentists use the dam when removing fillings from teeth to protect the throat from loose particles or filling materials. Because it is time-consuming to place, most dentists don't use it. Make sure a dental dam is used for root canal therapy, and consider suggesting that your dentist use it when filling your teeth.
Trust your judgement. Most dental office personnel feel somewhat intimidated when asked questions regarding sterilization techniques, even though they are routinely asked in this day and age. Therefore, it is important to observe closely the office and the personnel and make your decision, not strictly on how nice everyone is, but also on how professional and clean the office appears.
Remember, the risk of contracting AIDS or any communicable disease or infection can be minimized by proper sterilization and cleanliness. Furthermore, it is very important that any patient who has a communicable disease informs the health-care professional of his or her medical history. This will allow the staff to take appropriate precautions.
What Expenses are Involved in Visiting the Dentist?
Although safety is of paramount importance when choosing a dentist, cost is also a genuine concern. Within a specific geographic region, most dentists charge essentially the same for the same procedure. Take all of the preceding factors into consideration when comparing costs. If you feel the fees are overly expensive, you should keep looking.
Holistic dentistry is an area that has become more popular in recent years. However, many so-called holistic dentists charge more than general dentists but don't do anything different. Some holistic dentists perform unnecessary tests while charging exorbitant fees.
If cost is a problem, consider being treated at a dental school (a list of these schools is provided beginning on page 203). Treatments are performed by third- and fourth-year dental students under the watchful eyes of their instructors. Here, you can receive excellent treatment for less than you would pay a dentist in private practice. Be aware, however, that each appointment takes about three hours. (Most dental instructors and professors have private practices at the school; however, they charge private-practice fees.) City clinics that provide emergency care for low fees are also available. Check with a local dental society for a list of such clinics. Some local hospitals also have clinics that charge low fees; for example, Santa Monica Hospital in California has a low-fee program offering full dental care for minors. Call your local hospitals and inquire about such services.
In what Insurance Plans/ Payment Programs does the Dentist Participate?
There are three main types of dental insurance: the health maintenance organization (HMO), preferred provider insurance (PPI), and indemnity insurance. Because the programs are expensive, few employers offer dental benefits. Some dental insurance plans can be obtained on an individual basis.