Choosing a dentist can be overwhelming, particularly when you don’t even know the criteria by which to evaluate a dentist or dental practice. As with everything, there is a wide range in experience, skills and expertise among dentists and likewise, not all dental practices are equal. Fortunately, there are guidelines so you will ask the right questions in order to make a sound choice when choosing your dentist.
Starting with the basics, check that the dentist you are considering is a member of the American Dental Association, or ADA. As a bare minimum, you would want to choose a dentist who is willing to be a member of the ADA. Dentists who are members of the American Dental Association voluntarily agree to abide by the ADA Code as a condition of membership in the Association. (www.ada.org) Hopefully, most dentists will also be members of their state organizations as well, which in Maine is the Maine Dental Association. (MDA)
Once you’ve established the dentist’s basic professional memberships, it’s time to get to the nuts and bolts of how to evaluate a dentist and his or her practice. According to the Crown Council* (www.crowncouncil.com) an independent association of dental practices, there are FIVE KEY QUESTIONS you should consider:
1. How current is the dentist and how much continuing education have they taken in the last year? Dentistry is a continually changing profession with new developments in technologies, materials and treatments emerging all of the time. You will want to choose a dentist who has stayed current through continuing education beyond the bare minimum in both lecture as well as clinical courses. Keep in mind that state requirements to maintain a dental license can be minimal and so you will want to note whether a dentist is doing the minimum just to stay in practice or whether he or she is genuinely motivated to stay current within their profession in order to benefit YOU, the patient.
2. How much time will the dentist take with me during my initial exam? You will want to choose a dentist who spends at least an hour with you during your initial visit in order to give you a complete oral exam and assess your overall oral health. Although you may be eager to get into a new office for your initial dental hygiene visit, it is necessary for you to have a thorough exam and consultation with the dentist to discuss your condition and treatment options.
3. What is included in my initial exam? According to the Crown Council (www.crowncouncil.com )there are four things an initial exam should include:
a). A very thorough exam of your teeth for decay including charting, your existing restorations and the condition of all of your other teeth.
b). A complete evaluation of the health of your gums with a periodontal probe. Six points on every tooth should be checked and the findings charted.
c.) A check of your bite should be made to determine how your teeth come together to see if there is balance, excessive wear, or jaw pain.
d.) You should have an oral cancer exam. If the dentist is up-to-date the office will have either a VizLite or a VELscope. This will allow the dentist to immediately see if there are any abnormal tissue cells in the mouth. You should have an oral cancer exam at least annually.
4. Ask what will occur between the time of your arrival at the office and when the dentist starts the actual exam. A dentist interested in you and your health will set time aside to listen to your concerns during your first visit and not jump right into treatment.
5. Find out when the office last had their Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) compliance training. OSHA has very clear guidelines for dental offices to follow in order to maintain the highest standard of sterilization and infection control. Every member of the dental office is required by regulation to take compliance training at least once a year.
*What is the CROWN COUNCIL?
The Crown Council is a prestigious alliance of leading-edge dentists around the world who are strongly committed to promoting oral health, fighting oral cancer, and serving their communities through charitable work. Membership is by invitation. These industry leaders in health, wellness, and prevention offer the latest dental procedures in state-of-the-art facilities.
To learn more about the Crown Council, or to find a Crown Council dentist near you, visit: CrownCouncil.com