Passionate Artistry

Select a Dentist

happy toothThe author concludes his community talks with a question and answer period. Invariably, one question comes up that is very difficult to answer. The question is, “How do I know if my dentist is any good?” . The questioner often adds some comment that makes the dentist sound dishonest or unskilled. This is one of those kid glove topics. Making judgments with limited knowledge of situations is dangerous. Disparaging another dentist is frowned upon and could be unethical. It is far better for the patient to be equipped with additional information so that he or she can answer this question without professional assistance. This and previous articles provide much of that information so you can make informed decisions about whether your dentist can provide the treatment you expect.

The fact is, most dentists have the talent to provide excellent treatment. Some of these make financially based compromises to either reduce costs or increase revenues. Some need a little organization to provide more comprehensive care. A few have physical limitations such as impaired hand-eye coordination. These are the exceptions, however. The most frequent cause of marginal dental service is a lack of focus on the details. Dentistry is a detail- oriented profession.

An intelligent patient will avoid dentists that lack focus and will discover a dentist who has particular focus in the patient’s area of physical and psychological needs.

A dentist does not need to use a particular technology or a specific technique to be a great dentist. There is no one way a procedure should be done in dentistry… there are often several ways to achieve great results. Each dentist has his or her own style, just as each patient has his or her particular needs. Your best friend may feel perfectly comfortable with a dentist, but that dentist might disappoint you and not meet your needs.

The dentist interview is seldom done, but it is the best way to discover a dentist that can work for you. You can use the interview to discover why you are liking or disliking your current dentist, or you may use it to evaluate a dentist you are considering. A group of general questions provides a better overview that will help define whether a dentist can provide good or great results.

It would be possible to come up with a long checklist of what makes a great dentist, but just a few general questions are necessary. These questions are asked prior to or during your first visit to the dentist, or at any time if you already have a dentist.

The Dentist Interview

  1. Does the staff answer the phone courteously? (If they don’t answer the phone or respond to your message, look elsewhere).
  2. Are you put on hold for more than two minutes without your permission?
  3. Are you informed if you are going to be kept waiting in the reception room or a treatment room for an extended period?
  4. Are the nooks and crannies clean in the office? (This is usually the last thing that gets cleaned. If they are clean, you can be pretty sure everything else is clean).
  5. Is a complete x-ray series taken on new patients?
  6. Is periodontal probing done to help assess the presence of gum disease?
  7. Are instruments packaged for sterilization and unpackaged just for your visit?
  8. Does the office assist you in understanding any insurance plan you might have?
  9. Is topical anesthetic used before injections and is every effort made to reduce and eliminate pain?
    Are the doctors and staff current with their continuing education, including advanced cardiac life support?
  10. Does the doctor use magnification (loupes, telescopes) for examinations and preparations for fillings and crowns? What materials are used for crowns? Precious metals… non-precious metals…?
  11. What professional organizations or study groups does the dentist belong to?(Look for a dentist who belongs to at least two organizations…local, state and national dental societies count as one organization).
  12. Are you referred to specialists or is everything done in the office? (Although some dentists can “do it all”, a dentist who refers recognizes that others have higher skills in specialty areas. These dentists are more likely to demand more skill from themselves in restorative and cosmetic dentistry).
    How many years experience does the dentist have? (The younger you are and the healthier your mouth, the less important this question is. If you have missing teeth, periodontal problems, difficult aesthetic issues, or you “hate the dentist”, look for more experience).
  13. Does the office have an AED (automated electronic defibrillator)? While a dental office is a very safe place to receive healthcare, some states will soon require dentists to keep an AED on hand. If your dentist has one, it is a sign that s/he wants the very best for the patients.

While these questions can help determine whether you are in the right place, these questions will not give you a complete idea about the office’s capability to help you developing a lifetime smile. Smart “Add Life to Your Smilers” may simplify the search with one statement and two questions:

One Killer Statement and Two Killer Questions

Killer Statement (Preamble to Killer Question 1): “I would like to achieve a beautiful smile and have it last 40 years with hardly any more shots or drilling for that long.”

Killer Question 1Can you help me do my part and can you do your part to make this happen?

If the answer is “no” or “we can never make promises or guarantees about the future”, you are in the wrong place. Remember, you aren’t asking for a 100% guarantee. You are asking for a 100% effort.

If the answer is “yes” or “I will try”, then follow up with the following:

Killer Question 2: “Are you familiar with the oral-systemic health programs such as the Add Life to Your Smile Program”?

If the answer is “Yes” you have your dentist that knows your expectations and will do everything to keep you happy. She/he will know that you have her/his permission to provide outstanding care.

If the answer is “no”, then either present the dentist with your copy or have her/him obtain a copy to read. He or she may have an equivalent system that works. Allow for this.

Smart patients know the possibilities and are willing to hold their dentist accountable.Smart patients make dentists better dentists.


Next Chapter: The Care & Feeding of a Lifetime Smile


It was great. Each staff member greeted me and they walked me through the whole office. I highly recommend Studio Dentistry. They are great!!

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