Ask the Dentist: Choosing the right family dentist

Used  Worn out toothbrush in isolated background

Selecting a family dentist is a crucial decision that impacts the oral health and well-being of your loved ones. The right family dentist can provide comprehensive dental care for all family members, ensuring healthy and beautiful smiles for years to come. Let’s discuss the essential steps to ensure you make the best decision.

Family Dental Needs – Before beginning your search, assess the specific needs of each family member. Consider factors such as age, existing dental conditions, and potential treatments required. This analysis will assist you in finding a family dentist who can address the unique requirements of your family, from routine cleanings and checkup to specialized treatments such as orthodontics or pediatric care.

Seek recommendations, and do your homework. One of the most reliable methods is through recommendations from trusted sources, like friends and co-workers. Ask friends, colleagues, neighbours, and relatives for their suggestions in your area. Additionally, online platforms and review websites can provide valuable insights and real life experiences from patients. Watch for both positive and negative reports. If a negative report just ‘sits’ online without being pulled down, there may be fire where there is smoke. In reality many of the online posts are short on details, so don’t presume they are all accurate. Research several dentists, and make your shortlist based on positive recommendations and reviews.

Evaluate the qualifications and expertise cited. Assess these qualifications, and verify that they are coming from a credible source. With anything online these days there is a lot of fabricated expertise. Check for relevant credentials and certifications. In dentistry, we are very specifically limited as to what we may or may not state. Some things are simply not a specialty, such as cosmetic dentistry. Consider the age of your family, and determine whether a dentist for young children may or may not be a requirement. If your family is blessed with straight teeth, a practice focusing on teeth straightening may not be on your wish list. However, it may be more diversified with other treatment options which can be a good thing!

Location and hours of operation are important. Consider the proximity to schools, home, and workplace. Parking is a consideration. This isn’t usually a problem in Red Deer, but in downtown Edmonton or Vancouver that may be a major nuisance.

A positive dental experience is heavily influenced by effective communication and patient comfort. Schedule an initial consultation to check out the office for yourself, and assess how you were greeted and felt during that visit. Hint: If you didn’t feel welcome and comfortable, it rarely gets better than that! Both adults and children should feel at ease because this potential relationship is a long time investment.

Dental Technology can be confusing. Many team members in offices are not familiar with the ‘latest’ dental science, and some things may be high tech but not necessarily important for you. Ask to have it explained, and watch for an emphasis on both accuracy and comfort. There are some products recently on the scene which allow for needle free dentistry, teeth in a day, and other conveniences. Evaluate how important they are to you – and always ask how a specific procedure or service will benefit you directly.

Obtain a clear understanding of your insurance options and responsibilities. Each plan is different. Some insurers in certain areas are not available through every single clinic. They may be more employer specific, particularly stateside. Some families bring copious copies of historical dental records, but they are really a glimpse of the past. Technology, and even the taking of records has changed significantly. In dentistry, we are looking ‘forward’ not back for treatment options.

If someone in your group needs extensive treatment, inquire about payment options which may be more flexible and affordable. This may be convenient for long term orthodontic treatment.

Selecting the best ‘match’ with a dentist office involves careful consideration to ensure the needs of everyone are met with a positive experience. By following these steps (and your own ‘short list’), you will confidently locate a new family dentist who is qualified, experienced, and capable of delivering comprehensive dental care. Remember, investing time and effort to make your best decision up front will yield rewards of optimal health for your family for years to come. This task is time wisely spent!

Dr. Michael Dolynchuk is a General Dentist practicing in Caroline and Red Deer.

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