How to Choose the Right Dentist


Perhaps you’ve recently moved, or your insurance changed, or your beloved long-term dentist is finally retiring. Whatever the reasons behind your need to find a new dentist, searching for providers is not as daunting as it seems. Still, it’s important to take your time. You’re forging a long-term oral health care partnership, not an occasional business transaction, so don’t wait for an emergency to start looking! Here a few things to keep in mind while you search for the right dentist:

Check Your Benefits

The first stop in your new dentist quest should be your dental insurance’s list of covered providers. There’s nothing worse than spending tons of time and effort selecting your dream dentist, only to discover at your first appointment that your insurance is not accepted. Dental PPO plans typically cover the widest range of dentists, while HMO plans are more restrictive. Also note that procedure costs vary by dental office, so once you choose a dentist, be sure to inquire about fees, payment plans, and whether they provide referrals to specialists if your insurance plan requires it.

Consider Accessibility

For some people, proximity to their workplace is more important than proximity to their home, so consider the time of day you will usually make appointments and choose a dentist with a location and office hours that are the most convenient. Some dental offices even offer weekend or extended hours (Soft Touch Dental is open until 6 p.m. on Mondays and 7 p.m. on Wednesdays), which is a great option for people who find it difficult to get away in the middle of the day during the workweek.

Solicit Recommendations

Many professional dental associations such as the American Dental Association (ADA), Academy of General Dentistry (AGD), and the California Dental Association (CDA) offer membership lists online, but one of the best ways to find a new dentist is to ask recommendations from people you know and trust like family, friends, coworkers, or your primary care physician. Still, it’s important to note that what works for your best friend might not work for you, so treat recommendations as one of the first steps in the selection process—not the last.

Request a Consultation

Once you’ve narrowed down your list of prospective dentists to a few top contenders, call or visit them before making your first appointment. The dentist may or may not have time for a quick meeting, but their staff can answer all your preliminary questions such as:

  • Where was the dentist educated and trained?
  • What is the dentist’s approach to preventive dentistry?
  • How often does the dentist attend conferences and continuing education workshops?
  • What type of anesthesia is the dentist certified to administer?
  • What arrangements are made for handling emergencies outside of office hours?
  • How is billing handled?

If the staff seems uncomfortable with your questions, or if you are uncomfortable with their answers, that particular dentist might not be right for you.

Post-Appointment Evaluation

After selecting a dentist and attending your first appointment, evaluate the experience to ensure you want to return. Was the exam room clean and orderly? Was the hygienist friendly and accommodating? Did you feel comfortable asking questions? Did the dentist listen to and understand your concerns? If you have dental-related anxiety or a severe gag reflex, did the dentist offer remedies for your comfort?

Remember, you’re under no obligation to return to any particular dental office, no matter how much initial paperwork you fill out. So if your intuition is telling you that you made the wrong choice, listen to it and try again!

Need a new dentist? Check us out!

At Soft Touch Dental in San Diego, we prioritize your comfort along with your total oral health. We offer a wide range of general and cosmetic dentistry services including dental implants, digital X-rays, dentures, fluoride treatment, teeth whitening, porcelain crowns and bridges. We also offer sedation dentistry and an excellent team of dentists and staff members who bring years of experience to the table, so give us a call today!