The health of your teeth can not be overstated. Unhealthy teeth are not just unattractive, but can also be damaging to your overall health or even your career. Untreated dental issues might even become emergencies if they go on for too long.
Your smile is often the first thing people see when they meet you, and that includes potential employers. Even more worrying, poor tooth health can be an indication of a more serious health problem that can come back to bite you in the long run. Despite this, tooth decay is the most common chronic health issue among U.S. children, according to the CDC.
All of this makes finding the right dentist incredibly important for you and your family. Here are some common reasons you might need to seek out a dentist, followed by tips for finding the right dentist for you and your family.
Common Reasons You Might Need to See a Dentist
There are a lot of reasons to see a dentist. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but you can use it as a starting point if you aren’t sure about your symptoms. Keep in mind also that it is not only fine, but encouraged that you go to the dentist before there’s an issue. Finding the right dentist for a simple check up or cleaning will also mean you have a dentist if you have a more serious issue.
Here are a few signs that you might want to start looking for a dentist:
- You have pain. This pain doesn’t need to be particularly severe, but if you have persistent pain in your mouth, it could be a sign of a more serious issue.
- Your gums or teeth bleed when you brush. This can be a sign that your gums are irritated, perhaps from bacteria or other build up.
- You know you have bad dental habits, perhaps like chewing on ice cubes or smoking. Both of these can do damage to your teeth and mouth over time. We all probably have at least one bad dental habit, which is part of why everyone should be investing in finding the right dentist.
- You simply need a check up.
- You have had past dental work. If you’ve had fillings, crowns, dental implants or other dental work done, you should probably have a dentist whom you see regularly.
- You have dry mouth. This can indicate a more serious issue.
- You’re pregnant. Pregnancy can have a strange impact on certain dental issues, so don’t put off your check ups due to pregnancy.
As already noted, this is not a comprehensive list, but it may help you start thinking about whether you need a dentist and how to find one.
Do You Always Need to See a Dentist?
Even if you have pain, you might be thinking you can avoid going to the dentist. There are things like all natural pain relief cream and home remedies that might do the trick and save you the pain and hassle of visiting the dentist.
It is true that some dental issues are minor enough that you can deal with them at home with simple remedies. However, that is not always the case.
If you aren’t sure, it’s always better to err on the side of seeking a professional. Finding the right dentist can mean you catch issues early and stop them before they can get more severe. It might seem like an unnecessary burden, but you’re putting a down payment on your future health.
Finding the Right Dentist
We’ve seen that there are many good reasons to go to a dentist, even if you don’t have an urgent issue currently. Establishing a routine of regular checkups can make a healthy routine that keeps your mouth in good shape in the long term.
Here are some tips for finding the right dentist for you and your family:
1. Get Personal Recommendations
Finding the right dentist can be a group effort. Personal recommendations from friends, family, and neighbors is a great way to find a good healthcare provider.
Neighbors can be a great resource in this respect. They know the neighborhood and the local dentists, so you’re likely to get a dentist who is close to home.
You can also seek out neighbors who have similar families to your own. For example, if you have young children, you may want to talk to a neighbor who also has young children. Dentistry can be scary and overwhelming for children so finding the right dentist may need to include finding one who has a child-focused practice.
You don’t need to stop with neighbors. Even family and friends who don’t live near by can have useful advice about finding the right dentist. Perhaps they have tips about what worked and didn’t work from them. Or maybe they know more about the insurance industry and can help with that aspect of the process.
2. Look Up the Dentist’s Credentials
You don’t need to settle on the first dentist you find. Dentists have credentials just like any other professional and you can certainly look them up to ensure you’re making the right choice for you and your family.
Often, dentists will specialize in a specific area of dental care. For example, if you needed a surgeon, you wouldn’t want just any dentist. You would want to find an oral surgeon who can address the problem and has expertise in that area.
Different dentists also specialize in different types of patients. Some may be more focused on geriatric dentistry, while others focus on pediatric dentistry. But it goes far beyond just age groups.
While finding the right dentist, assess why you need to see a dentist. If you need medical attention, that can involve a different kind of dentist than if you need cosmetic dentistry. Often there is some overlap here, but if you know you need one or the other, you can lean heavily in one direction or the other.
You should also find out if the dentist you’re seeking out has limitations or restrictions when it comes to patients. While some dentists will specialize in providing services for children, others will prefer not to do pediatric dentistry, as it has different demands that they may not specialize in.
Ensure your dentist will be a good fit for your whole family by asking these kinds of questions before settling on a dentist.
3. Check Your Insurance
Insurance is already confusing enough, but it can get even more complex when you add in dental insurance.
It’s important that you know exactly how your insurance deals with dentistry. This may take a little digging or even a couple phone calls on your part, but it’s worth the work. Imagine finding the right dentist, only to discover they aren’t covered by your insurance. You would have to start the process all over again and that can be very discouraging.
You should also know how much dentistry your insurance covers. For example, your dentist might want to do three or four cleanings a year, but your insurance might only cover two. You need to decide whether two will be enough or whether you’re willing to pay out of pocket for the one or two extra cleanings.
It gets even more complicated if you need surgery or some other complex procedure. How much your insurance will cover and exactly what it will cover can be confusing. Try getting a consultation first so you can bring that information back to your insurance provider and figure out exactly what your costs will look like.
4. Check Out The Office Itself
A dentist’s office can say a lot about the dentist themself. It’s totally okay to visit a dentist’s office before deciding that they are the right dentist for you.
If you are extra ambitious, you can do a little digging and find out about the building itself. Was there a recent dental practice sale, meaning this is a relatively new dentist to the area? That could mean they’re more open to new patients and willing to give you a break on some costs. Or is this building older and always under the same tenant? This can indicate a dentist who has been a part of the neighborhood for a long time and is trusted by locals.
When you go to visit the office in person, check out the whole property. Is it attractive and well-maintained? How does the healthcare facility roofing look? Is it old and worn out or in good repair?
The same goes for the waiting room. Is it well-lit and welcoming? What kinds of magazines and games are around to help occupy young children?
These tangential things don’t relate directly to your dental care, but they will impact your overall experience. With dentistry being an experience that can often involve some amount of anxiety, it’s never a bad thing to do an in-person visit and get a feel for the place. This will ensure you and your family actually feel comfortable at this facility.
5. Check Out Online Reviews
If you’ve gotten a feel for a dentist and their practice, and know it’ll be covered by your insurance, take some time to look at online reviews. Friends, family and neighbors are a great place to start in terms of finding the right dentist, but online reviews can also be helpful.
With online reviews, it’s important to look out for things that might be fake or misleading. The highest and lowest reviews are not always as trustworthy as the ones that fall somewhere in the middle and list both positives and negatives related to the dentist and facility.
You can simply search the name of your dentist online and “reviews” to find out what other people think of this dentist and their practice. You may be surprised by what you find, or simply reassured. Either way, it’s never bad to take an extra minute and double check that how you felt is a sentiment echoed by others.
How to Find a Dentist in an Emergency
So far we’ve talked about how to find a dentist for things like routine check ups and cleanings. But there are times when your dental care is an imminent emergency.
You might need emergency care related to dental issues for a number of reasons. This could include breaking, chipping or knocking out a permanent adult tooth. It might also mean a severe bite on your tongue or lip or a toothache that has advanced to a severe stage.
There are some things you can do yourself at home. For example, if you knock out a tooth, you should try to place it back in the socket or in milk. The important thing is to keep it moist at all times until you can get to an emergency dental facility.
For things like bites, you can clean the area yourself and assess whether you might need emergency assistance. When it comes to a toothache, a warm water rinse can often help before you go to seek out a professional.
Finding the right dentist means a very different thing in scenarios such as these. However, many places do have emergency dental facilities where you can walk in for an emergency and receive care. There will often be a modest fee and you may not have time to check whether insurance will cover any of it.
Some of the emergency services provided at these kinds of facilities include diagnosis and treatment, as well as pain relief, extractions and assessments. The dentists at an emergency care facility may recommend follow up care and appointments with a non-emergency dentist. This will prevent the issue from recurring and help complete the treatment of the issue after the immediate emergency is under control.
Whether it’s an emergency or not, however, you should be at least familiar with the dentists in your area. Finding the right dentist takes some time, patience and diligence on your part, but that will pay off for you and your family. Receiving dental care early can prevent emergencies and long-term health issues.
Don’t slack on this vital service. By talking to friends and neighbors, visiting some local facilities and researching your dentist online, you can make an informed choice that will keep your whole family healthy for a long time to come.