You just moved to a new area. Your insurance provider or policy changed. Or maybe your old dentist just retired. Most of us have experienced the painful search for a new dentist – and while it’s never fun to have to find someone else that you can trust to stick their hands in your mouth, that doesn’t mean it has to be a test of will.
When push comes to shove, there are a few basic things that you need to know about your new oral care provider before you climb aboard as a new patient. And in today’s blog, we’re covering the basics – from some questions you should be asking any new healthcare provider, to making your final selection.
Back in the “good old days,” it was common to find new service providers by cracking open the Yellow Pages and scrolling down the list of names. But nowadays, there is the blessing (and sometimes curse) of more options being available than ever before – and that means more time spent sifting through good, bad, and misinformation. So how to avoid hunting for a needle in the proverbial haystack.
Start with friends and family – make a list of providers that come recommended by people that you trust. You can also use online communities and social networks to seek out (and vet) additional options.
Still don’t have as many choices as you’d like? Contact your local health department for a list of service providers in your area. And you can also use the American Dental Association’s Find-A-Dentist tool. The ADA is the nation’s largest and most well-regarded trade organization for the dental industry, and the resources on their website are a great place to find information if you can’t get a feel for the reliability of other references and recommendations.
Check Their Eligibility
Some dentists just won’t work for you – not because they’re the wrong fit, but because visiting their office is impractical. After all, if you were willing to drive a few hours out of your way for your biannual cleaning, wouldn’t you have just stuck with the dentist from your last town?
So when you’re starting a search for a new dentist, the first step is to screen for eligible candidates. Your screening should include some pretty basic logistics:
- How far away is their office and what are their hours? Do they have regional or satellite locations that they practice from?
- Is their practice covered by your insurance? Is it in- or out-of-network?
- If you require translation or interpreter services for medical care, can their office assist with accommodating these needs?
And for one final, but important screening question: are they a registered member of the American Dental Association? Dentists that are members of the ADA are held to a rigorous ethical standard that demands effort above and beyond the normal call of duty, requiring them to always act in your (the patient’s) best interest.
It’s OK To Interview
It might seem silly to think about interviewing a potential doctor before you become one of their patients, but it’s actually recommended that you do just that. After all, the last thing you want to do is go through the hassle of filling out paperwork, scheduling an appointment, and arriving to an initial cleaning or exam, just to find out on the spot that you aren’t comfortable with the dentist you’ve selected.
Calling around to the service providers that make it through your screening process and asking for a few moments of the dentist’s time prior to booking as a new patient can save everyone time, headaches, and frustration. You’ll probably want to do the interview in person – after all, that gives you an opportunity to check out the office, make sure that everything is clean and well-maintained, and confirm that the staff is welcoming and accommodating to your needs.
Depending on your comfort level, it may also be okay to interview your prospective new dentist over the phone (depending on their schedule) – it all comes down to what needs to happen to keep you comfortable. A few questions you might want to consider:
- Do you provide dental health instruction to your patients during cleanings and exams?
- How does your office handle emergencies and after-hours cases?
- Is the office staff familiar with your insurance coverage and benefits?
- Does the office keep dental records and medical history in permanent or temporary files?
Once you’ve interviewed your candidates and found a dentist that fits your needs, the next step is to contact their office about becoming a new patient. They’ll walk you through the onboarding process and you’ll be smiling confidently again in no time.