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Whether you’re moving to a new area or you’re not happy with your current dentist, finding and choosing a new dentist can be confusing. There are so many options, but how do you know the best one?
What To Look For In A Dentist
You want to find a good dentist that you can be with for the long run. Just like choosing a good physician to help you care for your body, you want to find the right healthcare professional to help care for your mouth.
Here are some questions you can ask regarding the dentist:
- What are the dentist’s office hours? Do they work with your schedule?
- Is the dentist office easy to get to?
- Where did the dentist go to school?
- Does the dentist participate in continuing education?
- What type of emergency services do they offer?
- What is the cost of this dentist? Are they upfront with their out-of-pocket fees?
- Is the dentist experienced in areas that can meet your needs (dentures, pediatric dental care, wisdom teeth, etc.)
- Does the dentist office participate in your health plan?
- Does the dentist explain treatments and procedures well?
- Are there long wait times (for appointments and while in the waiting room)?
- If I need 24-hour assistance, can the dentist accommodate me?
- Do they take good care of the office space?
- Is their dental technology up to date and high quality?
- Is the dentist and their staff open to and helpful with answering questions?
How To Find A Dentist
When it comes to actually getting out there and finding a dentist, there are some things you can do to get started.
Use Our Search Tool
At the top of this page, you probably noticed our handy “Find a dentist near you” tool. This easy-to-use search option gives you info on about 100,000 dentists from across the nation and can help you find one in your area.
Ask Your Friends
This is probably the most important thing to do. Asking your friends for recommendations is a great idea because they are actual patients of certain dentists. You can hear their good (or bad) experiences with a dentist and get a good idea for how it may go for you if you became a patient. Feel free to ask your friends any of the questions listed in the previous section.
Meet With Potential Dentists
Once you figure out a few dentists that may work for you, call or visit their office before making an appointment. If you can get a minute to talk with the dentist or one of their staff, as if the dentist is a member of a dentistry organization (the American Dental Association is the most well-known).
This is your chance to ask any of the questions listed in the first section and make sure they can meet your dental needs. Note the state of the office and the atmosphere of the waiting room. Also pay attention to how the dentist and staff treat you (are they friendly, relatable, and professional?).
Search The American Dental Association’s Website
You can visit the ADA’s official website to find a dentist near you. You can search by zip code, the dentist’s specialty, and even by name. From there, you can find the dentist’s location, contact info, payment options, insurance plans they’re a part of, and where they studied dentistry.
What If I Don’t Have Insurance?
If you’re someone who has no insurance, you are not alone. About 45 million Americans with private health insurance don’t have a dental plan, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Even though it’s best to have some sort of dental insurance, those 45 million people, and maybe you, can still get good dental care for cheap.
Among your options are dental savings plans, setting up a payment plan with your dentist, getting a loan, and receiving care from a dental school or dental clinics. Many dentists are used to working with people who don’t have insurance, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to still get the care you need.
If you don’t have insurance, dental plans can be a nice alternative or even replacement. They start as low as $97 a year, potentially saving you anywhere between 20% and 60% on dental care.
Dental plans don’t have deductibles and don’t require paperwork. Once you find a plan and get approved, you’ll get a dental plan card that you would show your dentist at your appointments.
At first, you might be wary of visiting a dental school because you’d rather a seasoned professional work on your teeth, not a student. But keep in mind, a seasoned professional is always overseeing the students as they’re with patients.
Sometimes dental schools offer free services, and other times you may find affordable care. If this is an option you want to look into, you can visit the Commission for Dental Accreditation’s website to look for a school near you.
Community Dental Clinics
Every state has dental clinics that are either low-cost or free. To see if you have one near you, you have a couple options:
- Your local hospital may have a dental clinic (or be able to refer you to one)
- Visit the ADA’s Dental Health Map website and search by state
- Visit the Health Resources and Services Administration’s website and search for programs for uninsured U.S. citizens
Medicaid And Other Options
Before choosing where to receive dental care, you may want to choose a dentist that accepts Medicaid. Also contact your insurance company (whether you have Medicaid or not) to see what kind of dental services they will pay for.
You’ll also want to ask about setting up a payment plan. Dentists do this often, so there’s no need to be embarrassed. Paying for your dental care this way if you are without insurance can make a huge financial difference.
Another last-resort option can be getting a dental loan. A couple places that offer these are Lending Tree and United Medical Credit, but you can also do a Google search for other dental loans. However, if you already have a credit card, you may want to see if the rate is lower than a dental loan.
What If I Have Kids?
Many states offer dental insurance for families and financial help with pediatric dental care, including Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
Every state has different eligibility rules regarding your income. But generally speaking, children up to 19 years old with household income of up to $49,200 per year may qualify for Medicaid or CHIP, according to InsureKidsNow.gov. Sometimes that income maximum can be even higher and your kids can still get on those plans.
You can find out if you and your family qualify for financial help for dental care by visiting the Insure Kids Now website or by calling 1-877-KIDS-NOW (1-877-543-7669).
Hopefully by now, you know exactly how to find a quality dentist, what questions to ask before choosing a dental professional, and how to get funding help if needed.