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Choosing A Dentist: 5 Factors You Need To Consider

Penn Dental Family Practice is here to guide you through the process of choosing a dentist.

Are you looking for a new dental practice for yourself or your family?  Whether it has been years since your last dental appointment or you have just moved to a new city, the decision you make when choosing a dentist can have a significant impact on your life.  Your comfort level with this dental practice, its affordability, and the overall quality of the services you receive there will influence the regularity of your appointments.  When you add to that equation the reality that oral health is a major component of overall health, it is easy to see how much the choice you make now matters for years to come.

Unfortunately, many Americans are unable or unwilling to visit the dentist with the regularity that is necessary to maintain the highest level of overall health. In 2014, the American Dental Association reported:

  • 52.3% of adults reported visiting the dentist every six months the last few years
  • 15.4% of adults reported visiting the dentist once per year
  • 11.0% of adults reported visiting the dentist every two to three years
  • 21.3% said they had not visited the dentist in the last few years

Almost half of surveyed adults were not receiving the regular dental care that is recommended to maintain good oral health.  Self-reported reasons for this avoidance included not being able to afford dental care, not needing dental care, and not having the time to make an appointment.

In light of numbers like these, it is more important than ever to seek out the dental care you need before problems develop.  And while you shouldn’t let the importance of this decision paralyze your search, it is important to figure out exactly how you are going to choose your new dentist. Like many other significant decisions in your life, choosing a dentist requires strategy, research, and a dedication to asking important questions.  

At Penn Dental Family Practice, we want to help patients like you find the best possible dental services for you and your family.  To help you make these decisions confidently and successfully, we have compiled the top five factors to consider when choosing a dentist.

Choosing A Dentist? Consider These 5 Factors:

1. Finances. The importance of your dental care’s affordability is not to be underestimated. Among adults who did not regularly visit the dentist, 40.2% reported that they will forgo necessary dental care due to cost. It is imperative that you find a dental practice who:

  • Works with most dental insurance plans
  • Has affordable payment plans available
  • Provides upfront treatment cost estimates to help patients know what to expect
  • Submits insurance claims on your behalf to maximize benefits and savings

When considering the cost of dental care, it is important to remember that receiving affordable preventive care on a regular basis is a significantly better investment than only seeing emergency or restorative services when symptoms develop. Your oral health is a major aspect of your overall health, and you are worth the investment.

2. Logistics. Logistics are perhaps one of the most easily overlooked aspects of choosing a dentist. Logistics are key to consistent satisfaction with your practice. Look for a practice that can offer:

  • Proximity to your home or work
  • Convenient hours for your schedule, including nights and weekends
  • Accessible parking or nearby public transportation
  • Interpretation (if English is not your most primary language)

Although most of your questions about logistics will be focused on regular, planned visits, be sure to raise the question of emergency resources. Does the practice in question provide emergency services on short notice? What can they offer you if a dental emergency occurs after regular office hours? .

3. Comfort. Although not everyone has a dental phobia, many people feel nervous or anxious when it is time to go to the dentist. While this is completely normal, it is still important to try to find an office where you will feel as comfortable as possible. One great way to determine this is to actually visit the practice prior to an appointment to get a feel for the atmosphere and the patient services available. During this visit, you can also ask about the dentist/ patient relationship that the practice aims to create.

Additionally, if you know that your anxiety will be amplified during routine or specialized dental services, ask about services that may be available to help you relax. Many practices offer a variety of options, ranging from nitrous oxide to sedation dentistry to help patients feel comfortable throughout their procedures.

4. Specialization. In addition to general dentistry, there are also a wide variety of dental specialities, including orthodontics, endodontics, oral surgery, pediatrics, dental implants, general dentistry, periodontics, prosthodontics and aesthetic dentistry. Look for a practice that can provide comprehensive care under one roof. One of the major benefits here is that you never have to be referred to another practice across town for a single procedure. With all of your dental specialities in one place, you never have to fill out new patient forms for a single procedure or worry about feeling uncomfortable at an unfamiliar practice.

Additionally, when all of your oral health care providers are working together, you benefit from the collaboration of care that occurs. A team of doctors and dental specialists including your general dentist can provide a higher level of care personalized to your exact needs. Communication is more effective and, as a result, so is your treatment.

5. Expertise. Finally, be sure to investigate the expertise of your next general dentist and any specialists also working at the practice. Ask about their educational background, as well as practical experience. We recommend looking for dentists who are committed to required continued education, including advanced learning. This ensures that your dentist will be using the highest quality materials and cutting edge techniques and technology, backed by clinical research. You may also want to ask about whether or not dentists at the practice participate in furthering dental research and innovating patient care.

Penn Dental Family Practice

If you live in or around the Philadelphia area, make sure that your considerations include Penn Dental Family Practice.  Between three convenient locations, we have over 40 doctors and specialize in all areas of dentistry.  Our dentists, of whom some are also Faculty at the Penn Dental School, are experts in their fields who are actively involved in furthering dental science and teaching the next generation of dentists.  Just as we are dedicated to clinical expertise, we are also committed to providing passionate, patient-centered care.
Want to see how our practice stacks up against the average general dentist in your neighborhood? Check out this helpful chart.

Getting Started

When you know what features to look for and what questions to be asking, choosing a dentist doesn’t have to be daunting or difficult.  You can start by searching online for local practices or asking friends and family for recommendations.  Make sure to gather a list of at least three practices to check out.  Then, check out the websites of each of the practices and make appointments to meet your potential dentists in person for an initial consultation.  Be sure to bring your list of questions about finances, logistics, comfort, specialization, and expertise along!
How would you recommend choosing a dentist or health care provider?  What are the questions that you recommend asking every time?  Let us know in the questions and comments section below!  We can’t wait to hear from you.