How To Find a Good Dentist: 7 Questions to Ask

woman looking at teeth in hand mirror at the dentist’s office

When you’re looking for a new dentist, it can feel like searching for the right pair of shoes. There are so many options, and they all fit a bit differently. Some dentists specialize in cosmetic dentistry and orthodontics, while others only do periodontal care such as implants and dentures. Some offer emergency appointments, while others have extended evening hours. What’s the most important consideration? 

Start your search by asking your friends, family, and coworkers about their dentists, and pay attention to their answers. What do they like (or not like) about their experiences? If you’re still not sure about what questions to ask, check out review sites like Yelp or Google for finding a good dentist. 

Nothing can answer your questions as well as an initial consultation or appointment. At our Canoga Park office, we gladly meet with new patients to answer questions before beginning treatment. No matter where you live, finding a good dentist is all about asking your dentist the right questions! Start with these.

1. Are you accepting new patients?

Some offices are going to tell you that they’re “full” or put you on a waiting list for six months. While not always the case, this can be a cause for concern. 

If a dentist is taking new patients, it’s a good sign that they are running their practice efficiently. Practices that cannot schedule your appointment in a timely manner are likely understaffed or relying on an outdated appointment booking system. One sign of a good dentist is that they will find openings for you, perhaps even calling you as soon as an appointment slot becomes available. To minimize waiting, some offices even provide an online messaging service to set up an appointment at a convenient time for you.

2. Do you have any special certifications?

The American Dental Association (ADA) certifies two types of dentists: general dentists and specialists. For a regular checkup and exam, this distinction is unlikely to matter much. Any dentist in general practice should feel comfortable with routine procedures. 

You are more likely to notice a difference with elective or cosmetic procedures. Transforming stained or crooked teeth is both a science and an art form. One way to find a good dentist for cosmetic treatments is to ask about his or her accreditation, certifications, training, expertise, and interests. 

3. What payment plans do you accept?

Most dentists will tell you that they accept insurance, but it’s worth digging a little deeper. Find out about the cost of a visit, what services are included, and what you will need to pay for separately. Ask your dentist if there is a fee for consultation and whether you can schedule an appointment without insurance.

If you have a dental insurance plan, ask if the dentist participates in it — not every dentist participates in every plan! A good dental practice will accept most major insurance plans and have financing options, including payment plans or credit cards that offer dental benefits.

4. Who is on your staff?

Everyone wants a beautiful smile that they can be proud of, and finding a good dentist includes finding out what specialists are on staff to help you achieve that. Some dentists are the only doctor at their practice, while others have multiple doctors or even an orthodontist in house who can consult with you about Invisalign, retainers, or other methods of straightening your teeth.

Once again, it depends on the extent of dental services you require. If you need some restorative work in addition to regular cleanings, a practice with more than one dentist is more likely to schedule you quickly and have the relevant in-house expertise.

5. How do you help patients manage pain?

Many people are afraid of the dentist because they’re afraid of pain. A good question to ask your dentist is what kind of approach he or she takes to deal with pain. It’s important to find a good dentist who will have a method for managing discomfort and will be able to explain how they will manage your pain during a procedure. If you are particularly nervous about dental procedures, ask if they use local anesthesia, which numbs the area being worked on; oral conscious sedation, such as nitrous oxide; or general anesthesia, which puts you to sleep.

A good dentist will hear your concerns about pain. Be wary of a dentist who dismisses your question by saying a procedure “doesn’t hurt.” You should always feel respected.

6. How often do you update your equipment?

Dental equipment is not cheap, and some offices will prioritize cost savings over upgrades. Yet finding a good dentist who utilizes the latest technology can make your visit more comfortable.

Some dental offices have high-speed handpieces that can make drilling less painful. Other offices may use lasers that don’t require anesthesia to remove plaque or treat gum disease. X-rays have now gone digital, providing a safer experience than traditional X-rays. And digital imaging software allows dentists to identify early-stage dental concerns. 

The materials used to make fillings and crowns are also constantly improving, and you want to find a good dentist who is up-to-date on these advances. Ask your dentist what materials he or she uses for fillings and crowns because this may affect how long the filling lasts or how well it fits with your other teeth. If you’re looking to find a good dentist in Canoga Park who uses the latest technology, we are happy to meet you at the Dental Health Group.

7. What if I need an emergency appointment?

You want to find a good dentist that will make themselves available in case of an emergency. If you have a dental emergency such as a broken tooth or severe pain that won’t go away, you will need to get in sooner than six months from now.

woman holding ice pack to cheek

The Dental Health Group

When it comes to finding a good dentist, the most important thing is that you’re comfortable with them and confident in their abilities. If you do your research and come prepared to ask your dentist questions at your appointment, finding a good dentist can be a straightforward experience.

The Dental Health Group in Canoga Park makes every effort to ensure your visit to the dentist is as comfortable and relaxing as possible. Patients travel from all across the Valley to reach our office. Call 818-718-2000 to schedule your appointment. We can’t wait to meet you!