Author: Dr. Pat Cassidy
Let’s say you are looking for “the best dentist in Durham, North Carolina.” What can you do to increase the odds that you succeed in finding a dentist who meets or exceeds your expectations? And what exactly are your expectations for a great dentist (or dental office)? Here’s some ways to help you to be successful with your search:
1. Word of Mouth Referrals
Years ago, if you were a new resident to Durham NC, you would likely ask a neighbor or a new co-worker if they knew of a great dentist in Durham. Interestingly, asking for a referral for a Durham dentist is still a very effective approach. But be careful to ask questions that reflect what is important to you in finding a top-notch Durham dentist.
For instance, your co-worker may say “I love Dr. X. She is very gentle.” If finding a gentle dentist is ALL that you are interested in then maybe that “gentle dentist” is the right one for you. However even if gentleness of a dentist is your prime goal you might want to ask a couple of clarifying questions to be more certain that you are actually going to get the gentle dentist that you want such as:
a. How long have you been a patient of the practice?
If the answer is “2 weeks,” it’s probably not enough patient encounters to crown the dentist as a gentle or “pain free” dentist.
b. What procedures have you had done?
If the answer is “Only an examination and a couple of cleanings” then the patient has not really experienced any dental procedures that, if not carefully rendered, could involve unnecessary discomfort.
2. Online Ratings and Reviews
Nowadays, access to digital ratings and reviews are easily found, and have made finding a great dentist tremendously easier. Be wary of practices that have very few reviews (10 or less) or poor reviews (2.9 or less). Properties such as Yelp and Google are very strict in that it is almost impossible to have a review removed, however negative or untrue that they might be – or even fraudulent. Some properties even favor negative reviews, believing that they are more helpful than positive reviews.
Of course, no dental office, even that of a terrific dentist, can please everybody, so if you find a dentist that has hundreds of reviews, do not be too disturbed by the handful of negative reviews that may be present. Pay more attention to the star rating being 4.5 or higher. Of particular importance pay attention to the overall feel of the reviews. If there are a high percentage of reviews that rave about all aspects of the dental office experience like “From the front office staff, to the hygienists and dental assistants, the doctors, and the check-out process, I felt like I was part of a wonderful family” you have a pretty good chance of finding your terrific Durham dentist in that practice.
If you are looking for a “super dentist” in Durham, Chapel Hill, Raleigh, Cary, or anywhere else for that matter, location is important. A really great dentist (clinical skills, personality, etc.) is no good to you if he or she is not available when you need them. Consider:
Be sure to check proximity to your home and workplace. Ideally, it should not take you more than 30 minutes to get to the super dentist that you have chosen. A true super dentist will draw from a wider reach than the average dentist – do pay attention to neighbors and co-workers who brag about driving a long distance to visit their super dentist.
b. Days & Hours Available
It is advisable to ask about regular office hours. If you can find a dental office that is open 6 or even 7 days a week, and evenings as well, you can rest easy knowing that availability will never be a problem. Typically, group practices have the best ability, with multiple dentists, to provide expanded dental care hours. Open dental office hours including weekends and evenings are great for accommodating those that do not want to miss work. Finding a “super dentist” in a group practice is a real bonus for the above reasons.
c. Multiple Technical Procedures Under One Roof
Generally speaking, after a patient established a nice rapport with their chosen terrific dentist, they generally want that dentist to do as much as possible in the dentist’s office, rather than being referred to a specialist. Keep in mind that general dentists can do any dental procedure that a specialist can do if they are properly trained (for example have taken advanced clinical courses subsequent to dental school) and are confident and competent in providing such services. It follows that a group practice, having multiple dentists, is more likely to be able to provide a wider range of services than a solo practice.
4. Dentist’s Professional Experience
Like any other profession or vocation, when choosing a dentist – experience counts. It is not surprising that most people would likely prefer a highly experienced dentist over a dentist new to the profession. Dental schools across the United States provide a great foundation for dental practice, however years of post-dental school diagnosis and clinical treatment experience creates wisdom and a practical knowledge base that is simply not available in any other way. So, do not hesitate to ask how many years of dental practice that a particular dentist has. In my opinion it takes at least 5 years post dental school to achieve enough experience to be considered a great dentist. If you want further evidence of professional status, it is possible to check with State Dental Boards for any possible infractions or disciplinary measures that have been taken.
5. Team Experience
As for your dream dentist, you should also check for signs of a dream supporting team. One of the most important indicators is the length of time that team members have been with the practice. Longevity generally indicates that the team is well led, well respected, well paid, and well-integrated. Great systems are likely in place that will ensure an enjoyable experience every step of the way.
6. Painless Dentistry
Dentists, like all people, come in all shapes and sizes – and temperaments. Assuming that a dentist has good references as to being gentle, if you happen to have considerable anxiety around having dental care, it is good to check to see if the office has adjunctive procedures available to support you beyond being a caring dentist.
In particular check to see if the office can provide oral or IV sedation to assist you in being comfortable through virtually any procedure. IV sedation has the advantage of essentially inducing a state where you are not even aware of the dentistry being done.
Online photos and videos of practices will highlight the best views of the practice that the practice can come up with. If you are unimpressed with the photos or videos don’t expect to be impressed when you visit that office.
Ultimately, the premises should be attractive, up to date, clean and comfortable. A messy unkempt and, heaven forbid, dirty reception area will not help to establish a good feeling about the quality of service and clinical care that you are about to receive.
8. First Impression – The Phone Call
Once you have done your initial research and make that initial phone call you should be greeted by a very pleasant person who:
a. Gives you the feeling that he or she is smiling while speaking with you.
b. Does not make you feel that he or she is in a rush.
c. Calmly listens to your concerns and exhibits a genuine sense of empathy for you.
d. Schedules you same day or next day in respect of you and your time.
In summary, finding a great dentist is certainly possible in this area – there are plenty of outstanding dentists in Durham, Raleigh, Chapel Hill, and Cary. It just takes a little research and a little time to increase your chances of success in finding one. When you do find your “dream dentist” you will almost always find that that dentist has a dream team. When you do find that dentist, be sure to share your find with others so they can enjoy dentistry at its best.