As a mom of three, I know the pressures we moms feel in making decisions for our kids’ health. We buy organic when possible, we try to make sure our kids get outside and aren’t glued to their electronics all weekend, and we research online and among neighbors when trying to find healthcare providers like pediatricians and dentists. But how do you really know if a dentist is “good?” Do you seek the opinions of neighbors and co-workers? Co-workers and neighbors can be good resources for recommending a dentist based on the dentist’s personality, gentleness, and appearance of the office, but may not always know if the work being done is of high quality. However, word-of-mouth recommendations are a good place to start. Reading online reviews next to be sure that others have the same great experience is important as well.

Other things to consider when selecting a dentist for your family are whether or not you are able to get an appointment within a reasonable period of time. Can you be appointed for a new patient examination within a few days or weeks, or is it a 2-month wait for the next available appointment? A long wait may indicate an office that would be too busy to see you quickly if an emergency ever arose. You may even want to visit the office before actually making an appointment. When you arrive, look at the cleanliness of the office. Are there “dust bunnies” in the corners, or is the office neat and tidy? A clean office is usually a more efficient one and often is particular about sterilization and disinfection. Is the staff friendly and do they greet you as soon as you arrive?

On the day of your appointment, a staff member should seat you in the treatment room close to your appointment time, or if an unusual circumstance has arisen, you should be told your approximate wait time. Once seated, your medical and dental history should be discussed with you, and you should be asked if you have any specific concerns or requests. When you look around the office, does it seem “up-to-date” on technology? Digital x-rays, intraoral cameras, and computers in the operatories are some of the technologies that many updated offices have as well as CAD/CAM equipment for making crowns and other restorations in the office in one appointment. When you receive your initial examination by the dentist, the exam should be thorough, checking not only for decay and broken or cracked teeth, but also for oral cancer or other facial pathology, occlusion (bite) issues and TMJ problems. The exam should include gum measurements to check for periodontal disease as well as questions about the quality of your sleep to be sure there are no sleep breathing disorders.

A “good” dentist educates you with photos and descriptions of the condition of your mouth and works WITH you to develop a treatment plan. He or she is willing to tailor the plan to your finances, goals, and desires, advising you on ideal treatment, but altering the plan or the sequencing of the treatment if needed to help you complete it. Prices do not always reflect quality of treatment. High prices don’t necessarily correspond to high quality treatment, but bargain shopping is also not a good idea when it comes to your health! Having a feeling of trust and that the dentist is ethical is one of the most important factors in the dentist-patient relationship; after all, if the dentist is highly skilled, but cares nothing about you, is he or she really a “good” dentist?

Finding a dentist you trust with your family’s dental health can sometimes be a daunting process. Seeking “word of mouth” recommendations and reading reviews combined with telephone or in-person interviews of the office can help you narrow your search to someone whom you will hopefully find to be that caring, ethical, gentle, knowledgeable professional you are looking for!

This article was written by Dr. Christi Cheek, owner of Cheek Dental, and originally appeared in our May issue of EAST COBBER, on page 9. Click here to view the digital edition.