In order to understand the best manner in which to choose the correct dentist for you, it is important to know that a dentist is a licensed practitioner who holds either a doctor of dental medicine degree (D.M.D) or a Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.) degree. In order for an individual to become a licensed dentist, a minimum of two years of predental college instruction is required as well as an additional four years of dental school. If a student decides to then specialize in a specific field, an additional two years of advanced training is then required. In order for a dentist to then become board-certified, an exam administered by the American Dental Association must be passed. In my case, I went on to earn a Certificate of Orthodontics at Harvard University School of Dental Medicine, making me a specialist of orthodontics in New York and the only type of dental specialist who should treat patients with braces or Invisalign. Click here to learn more about my treatment philosophy as a dentist and orthodontist.
Dentistry consists of eight different specialties. These include:
- Endodontics: The treatment and prevention of diseases concerning the root of the tooth and other related structures.
- Dental Public Health: The control and prevention of dental diseases as well as the dental health of the community.
- Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery: Tooth removal or extractions and the surgical treatment of injuries, defects or diseases of the face, mouth and jaw.
- Oral Maxillofacial Pathology: The diagnosis of diseases, tumors and injuries of the neck and head.
- Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics: Correction and diagnosis of facial deformities and tooth irregularities
- Periodontics: The treatment and care of diseases relating to the gums.
- Pediatric Dentistry: The dental care of children and infants.
- Prosthodontics: The treatment of oral irregularities or dysfunction with prosthetics such as dentures, crowns and bridges.
When choosing a dentist, it is important to look for a doctor that expresses an invested interest in both their patients and the health of their patients. A good dentist should promote the proper oral hygiene and preventative care.
A proper dental examination should always include the inspection of the teeth as well as a thorough evaluation of the entire mouth. The lymph nodes found in the neck as well as the thyroid gland should be checked for any enlargement. A thorough dentist will note their conclusions in great detail into a chart designated for that patient.
Before deciding and implementing a treatment plan, it is important that you as the patient feel that the treatment options have been clearly explained. For example, an implant, removable or fixed bridge might be options available to replace a tooth but they have different pros and cons as well as different costs.
Dentist Establishments to Avoid
Unfortunately, I’ve seen a lot of doctors advertising their services via Groupon and other social coupon sites. While I believe in getting great deals when possible, you get what you pay for with dental care. In fact, the ADA’s stance on Groupon is a rather clear one– one which I believed from the get-go. Always be skeptical of overly exuberant advertising as this is often a sign of an emphasis on mass production as opposed to quality. Additionally, a dentist that emphasizes cosmetic dentistry and other one-time visit procedures will likely not be interested in long-term maintenance which is less profitable.
Regular use of intravenous sedation is also another sign to be wary of as these methods expose patients to unnecessary risks. While general anesthesia can be appropriate for young children, the majority of adults do not need this for a routine procedure. In addition to unneeded sedation, other signs to avoid are dentists who engage in or promote unscientific practices such as:
- Recommending the removal of teeth that have undergone root canals or the replacement of amalgam fillings.
- The sale of dietary supplements or vitamins
- Claiming to “specialize” in the treatment of myofacial discomfort, backaches, headaches or temporomandibular joint disorders.
- Claim that fluoridation is a health risk
- Referring to their practice as “biological” or “holistic”.
- Claiming to be able to diagnose neuralgia-inducing cavitational osteonecrosis (NICO).
- Claiming to diagnose “heavy metal toxicity” or any other diseases that are not related to the teeth, mouth or gums.
In the event of an emergency, it is always a good idea to become well acquainted with a family dentist, hopefully prior to an emergency happening. A good idea is to schedule an initial visit with a potential dentist in order to get a feel for their practice. Make sure to ask about their payment structures and fees and make sure they will offer a written statement of the fees that will be charged once payment is due.
Once you have received treatment, you have the ability to judge the skills of your dentist by asking yourself specific questions:
- Is any of the dental work irritating to your gums or surrounding soft tissue?
- Does your bite feel comfortable?
- Does the tooth that underwent treatment look natural?
- Is dental floss catching on any teeth?
- Were your fillings polished?
- Is any pain felt when drinking liquids that are hot or cold?
- Was there any debris left over in your mouth following the procedure?
- Was a water spray used when drilling in order to cool the teeth?
As with any procedures that require extensive further treatment, a second opinion is always advised. This should preferably come from a dentist that is closely affiliated with a local dental school. No dentist should express resistance to your request of seeking a second opinion. If the outlined treatment plan is legitimate, particularly if it is a costly one, it should be confirmed by another practitioner.