LOOKING ON THE INTERNET: We all search for things on the internet. It's a part of our world now. So, I did a google search in my area for "Best dentist in....(my city)." It was surprising to me what showed up. I have been in practice a long time and very involved in my dental community. I know most of the dentists in the area. Frankly I taught a good portion of them. So on page one of a google search up popped a list of dentists. The top of the page were paid advertisements. We all know about that. Next up was a list of dentists in the area. Some of the dentists listed there are excellent, some are not so good. If you didn't know you would have a hard time deciding which was which. Reviews can be helpful but these are also not perfect. Oftentimes reviews are a reflection of how diligent the dentist is in seeking out reviews. Some of the very best dentists in the area don't show up until many pages later and may not have that many reviews. Google has a bunch of parameters that it uses to determine who ends up on the first page. Not all of them are related to true measures of quality.
INSURANCE: Many patients now have insurance with a list of dentists to choose from. In some cases you can only choose from that list if you want the insurance to pay. In other cases you can choose outside of the list but will pay more if you do so. So if you have poor quality insurance, meaning that they pay the dentist poorly, you may need to ask yourself the question. "If they pay so poorly, then why are these dentists signing up for it?" Well I guess that the simple answer is that the dentist needs more patients. That may be because they are young and unknown or perhaps there are reasons that they have a hard time retaining patients in their practice. If the insurance pays very poorly then the dentist, in order to make a profit, will have to make choices. It may mean buying less expensive supplies, using oversea laboratories, paying their staff less, or spending a lot less time with the patient. Somehow, they will need to make a profit when the margins are narrow.
SO HOW DO YOU CHOOSE? Well, if I was new to an area I think I wouldn't rely on just one thing. Here is what I would do
- Ask around. I would place more value on the opinions of people who have been with their dentist a long time. That would have given them long enough to see if the dental work turned out well or not over time.
- Look at the internet and pay special attention to what people say in reviews.
- I would be a little leery of practices that have large advertisements. There has to be a reason that they have to do that to get patients. I would also be a little concerned about a practice that says, "we take all insurances" To me that is a red flag. Also, lots of "freebies" are a red flag. These are simply enticements to get you through the door so that they can make back their money in another way.
- Call a dental lab and ask "Who are the best dentists that you take care of?" A dental lab sees every crown preparation done by a large number of dentists. They have a pretty good feel for the dentists that they serve. You could also call an orthodontist and ask the same question. They see the work of a lot of dentists.
- Look for a dentist who really cares about staying current. The ADA has very few requirements for membership. The AGD (Academy of General Dentistry) has much higher requirements. Especially look for someone who has earned FAGD or MAGD awards. This means the dentist has really gone the extra mile. AGD: find a dentist
- Make an appointment and pay attention to how that first visit goes. Is the place clean, up to date, do people seem genuinely happy that work there, does the dentist take time to answer all your questions. If you don't get a good gut feeling, try somewhere else.
About the author: Eric Vogel has been practicing dentistry since 1988 in Provo Utah. He is a third generation dentist. He has been deeply involved in local and international charity dental work. He has taught countless young men and women in their dental career path. He and his wife are the parents of eight children.