If you’re one of the millions of Americans who get a little anxious thinking about going to the dentist, you probably also struggle with how to find a dentist you’re comfortable with. But with so many different options, it’s possible to cut through the noise and partner with a dental practice you like.
4 Tips to Find the Right Dentist
“Dental anxiety and phobia are extremely common. It has been estimated that 9% to 15% of Americans avoid seeing the dentist because of anxiety and fear,” Colgate mentions. “That’s about 30 million to 40 million people. In a survey by the British Dental Health Foundation, 36% of those who didn’t see a dentist regularly said that fear was the main reason.”
In other words, you aren’t alone. And while there are lots of different ways to ease your fears, the quickest and most sustainable option is to find a dentist that makes you feel comfortable. Here’s how to do that:
- Identify Wants, Needs, and Expectations
You have dozens of dentists to choose from in your area. It’s not enough to say you want a good dentist. In order to find one you’re comfortable with, you need to be clear about your wants, needs, and expectations.
Are you looking for a dentist who is quick and professional – getting you in and out as efficiently as possible? Or are you looking for a dentist who is extremely personable and takes the time to get to know you on an individual basis?
It’s also wise to think about your needs. Are you okay with traditional dentistry, or do you need someone who offers sedation and other “pain-free” options?
When you understand exactly what you want, it’s easier to know when you find the right dentist. Otherwise, you’ll only feel more confused by the options you have.
- Ask for Referrals
If you don’t personally know any dentists, the best thing you can do is ask for referrals from people who do. There are a couple of different types of referrals:
- Industry referrals. These referrals come from people in the industry. If you’re moving to another city or state, your current dentist may have a referral network with a list of reputable names. Pharmacists are another good source of referrals. They often know people in the local dentist field.
- Friends and family referrals. While industry referrals are typically the most trustworthy, you can also ask friends and loved ones for suggestions. If they have a dentist they know and love, it’s possible that you’ll also feel comfortable around them.
Whether it’s from another dentist or a neighbor, take every referral with a grain of salt and do your own research.
- Do Some Online Research
The internet is your friend. Whether you have a list of referred dentists, or you’re starting your search from scratch, you can do some really detailed due diligence online. Websites that rate and review dentists, like Healthgrades, are a great place to start.
For example, let’s say you live in Wichita, Kansas. All you have to do is search for a dentist in Wichita, KS and you immediately get a list of dentists with reviews, ratings, location, and contact information. You’re then free to make your own shortlist of the ones you’re most interested in meeting.
- Set Up a Consultation
Finally, most dental practices offer free consultations to new patients. During these consultations, you get the opportunity to meet the staff, interact with the dentist, and ask questions. If you feel comfortable, you can register to become a new patient. If it doesn’t feel like a good fit, there are no strings attached. This allows you to get a feel for the dentist before making a commitment.
Trust Your Instincts
At the end of the day, you have to make your own decision. The best piece of advice is to trust your instincts and make the decision that feels right. It’s also important to remember that you’re just picking a dentist – not marrying one. If you make the decision six months down the road that you’d rather go with another dentist, it’s as simple as transferring your medical files and scheduling an appointment with the new doctor.