People have a hard time evaluating the competence of the dentist that they see. A person who doesn’t get well or has frequent relapses may begin to be suspicious about their doctor.
Sometimes careless dentistry may leave patients with a false sense of security until their dental problems escalate. Even then, they may not suspect or relate their problems to the quality of previous care.
A practical way to evaluate a dentist is to determine if he or she is performing a thorough examination. An examination should include a visual examination of the soft tissue of the mouth such as the tongue, throat, cheeks as well as the gums, checking the teeth and bite relationship of your upper and lower teeth, the jaw joint (TMJ), a periodontal examination involving the use of a probe to measure the depth of pockets that may have formed between gums and tooth (an indication of gum disease), a full set of x-rays if you haven’t had a recent set taken by a previous dentist, feeling the lymph nodes under your jaw, take notes of your existing restorations, and the color or shade of your teeth. A medical and dental history should also be taken.
If treatment is needed, the dentist should discuss the problem, the treatment options, and how much each will cost. An ideal treatment plan should emphasize trying to save tooth rather than extraction except in some cases. The best dentists are skilled in the latest techniques and, most of all, they are prevention oriented. They try to make you avoid having problems in the future instead of just fixing what is broken. They care to learn and improve their skills to provide better care for their patients. Beware of dentists who send you on your way with “everything’s all right; don’t worry” and do not discuss your diet and oral hygiene.
Even among dentists graduated from recognized dental schools, some are better than others. The better ones tend to be able to inspire their patients. Call it chairside manner if you will. It is a gift. Of course, there are some very good dentists who don’t communicate too well. If a patient doesn’t feel confident, he shouldn’t feel obligated to continue with that dentist.
Patients should expect someone who is concerned about them as a whole person, not just their teeth, and who will be tuned in to their problems and be responsive to them.
Dentists are trained to refer patients with problems they cannot handle to specialists who can, but some of them might not for fear of losing patients. This is often true with patients who discover later that they have gum disease.
Patients should not hesitate to get a second opinion if they feel unsure. A patient may not be able to pin point the problem – whether it’s approach or cost – but a second opinion certainly is appropriate. Patients should also be suspicious of dentists who are offended by their desire to get a second opinion. When a dentist is honest and supportive, it may end up making their patient become more confident about them.
Those seeking dentists for regular care may ask for referrals from universities with dental schools, hospitals with accredited dental services, the local dentist society, family physicians or friends whose judgment is reliable.
It is recommended that children be brought in for a first dental exam around the age of 2 ½, when there is no crisis and therefore no pain involved. This can be done by a family dentist who is comfortable treating children or a pedodontist (children’s dentist).
A recent trend in delivering dental care has been the growth of franchise dental centers, sometimes placed in department stores or shopping centers. Such centers may advertise lower fees and faster care than is usually available from private practitioners.
Bulk equipment purchases and shared overhead costs help to keep the price down. The big question is whether dentistry practiced in such a setting will be good as well as cheap.
There is no relationship between cost and quality of care. Some are good, some are terrible. Some dentists in high-rent districts may not give as good quality of care as in some clinics. We simply cannot relate fee and quality.
For those who can’t afford private dental care or who do not have dental insurance, good dental care can often be obtained in hospital-based dental clinics or the student clinics at dental schools, where faculty members supervise the student’s work. Some patients think that they get better care because a full complement of dental specialists were consultants on their cases.
For questions, call our office at 619-464-2801 for an appointment. We are located at 4700 Spring St., Suite 210, La Mesa Ca. 91941.