Choosing a Dentist You'll Want to See (Again and Again)
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Choosing a Dentist You'll Want to See (Again and Again)

Expert tips on how to find a compassionate, skilled dental professional.

Maybe you've recently moved, or your old dentist retired, or you've had a bad dental office experience. Whatever the reason, you're on the hunt for a new dentist. Where should you start? What qualities should you look for? What questions should you ask? Three oral health experts gave us their top tips for finding your dream dentist.

Search for recommendations. In the old days, if you were looking for a new dentist, you'd ask friends, family members and coworkers for referrals. That's still a good place to start, but don't stop there, says Jerry Gordon, DDS, a dentist in private practice in Bensalem, Pennsylvania. He recommends looking at reviews on the Internet as well. "If you do a search and eighty to ninety percent of the reviews are positive, that's a good sign," he says. "On the other hand, seeing very few reviews or more negative than positive reviews are red flags." While you're online, check out the dental office's website so you can get a feel for the dentist's style and areas of expertise.

Ask your old dentist. If you're moving to a new area and you're leaving your old dental practice on good terms, ask your previous dentist for referrals. This tip is especially helpful if you're seeing a specialist, says Jonathan B. Levine, DMD, an associate professor at the NYU School of Dentistry. "Let's say you're moving from New York to Miami. You could ask your current dentist, 'Who do you like in Miami?' We all know each other from attending conferences and lectures, and we're going to send you to someone we trust and respect," he says.

Consider some key factors. "Does the dentist teach? Is he or she academically oriented?" says Dr. Levine. Teaching or being affiliated with a university is a sign that the dentist is likely to be keeping up with the latest advances and using state-of-the-art technology, he says. You'll also want to make sure the dental office has proper infection control procedures, such as barrier control and autoclaving. But it's also important to make sure you find someone you can trust and get along with, says Mark S. Wolff, DDS, professor and chair of the Department of Cardiology and Comprehensive Care at New York University College of Dentistry. "The dentist must be willing to answer your questions and should never dismiss them," he adds. "You want someone who is going to care about not just your teeth, but also about other health issues, such as whether your diabetes is under control."

Send an email. If you have dental phobia, it's helpful to send the dentist an email with some preliminary questions and concerns, says Dr. Gordon. "The answers you get from the dentist should hopefully allay many of your fears and anxiety." If you don't get a response, it may mean the office isn't well organized.