When it comes to finding a dentist, or even evaluating the one you have, how do you differentiate between the good ones and the bad? We’ve offered some helpful tips below to help in your evaluation. Keep in mind though, no dentist office will be perfect, but you should at least see them working on some, if not all, of the areas mentioned. Pick out what’s most important to you in a dentist and filter your experience through that perspective. And pay close attention to the special categories marked below as these are the areas we believe should be top on your list.

First Impression

The first impression of your dentist and his/her office actually consists of three parts.

  • The scheduling. This is where it all begins—the phone call when you make your appointment. Is the receptionist kind and open to answering your questions or does he/she respond more harshly? A dentist’s staff says a lot about the dentist and his/her practice.
  • The office. What feeling do you get when you walk into the dentist’s office? Does it feel welcoming? Does the staff at the dental office seem happy and helpful? If you’re just given a clipboard and told to sit down without much introduction or sense that they even care you’re there, you may be in the wrong dental office. Additionally, have a look around the office. If the office is dusty and unclean, you are being well-warned that their dental office isn’t sterile, which means the instruments the dentist uses to put into your mouth won’t be either. If that’s the case, get out of there and find somewhere else to go!
  • The wait. The last step of your first impression includes the wait. While I wouldn’t base your decision solely on the wait, because some dentists may encounter difficult problems they couldn’t plan for that day, it’s still something to consider.

*Pain Level

A mark of a good dentist is being able to give treatment in a way that minimizes a patient’s pain. Poor dentists will not worry about minimizing a patient’s pain and will be much rougher in administering routine care like cleanings or giving shots.

*Equipment Cleanliness

Find out how they clean their equipment. How do they sterilize it? A high quality dental office will not be offended by you asking the question and they might even show you what they use to clean their equipment.

*Good Hygiene

If your dentist keeps his/her gloves on after he/she has cleaned your mouth and you see him/her rummaging through drawers, writing notes or doing anything else, that’s not a good sign. And if you see your dentist doing any of these things before cleaning your mouth, that’s an even worse sign.

*Monetary Obsession

Good dentists care about their patients and improving their oral health. They aren’t interested in scamming their patients or getting as much money as they can out of them. You may believe it’s impossible to know for sure, but there are some sure ways to figure out where their real intentions lie.

  • Extreme and Unnecessary Procedures. While some extreme procedures are necessary depending on the state of your teeth, if your dentist jumps immediately to that option without covering any other alternatives that might be less expensive, find another dentist or seek a second opinion. Now, if it’s really necessary, they may lay out your options and then tell you which one they recommend, but they shouldn’t force you to choose the most expensive option. Additionally, if this dentist recommends expensive procedures every time you come in, it’s a clear sign they care more about money than about you.
  • Upselling. Be cautious of dentists who try to sell you extra products like bottles of vitamins and herbs that can help your oral health. It will be hard to tell if these products will actually be a help to you or if it’s just their way of making a quick buck.
  • Payment. If a dentist requests the full payment for your dental work before the dentist even begins the work, red flag.
  • Checking the Bill. If you had a simple dental appointment with no major problems, your bill should reflect that. If a dental office spends a lot of their time itemizing your bill and suggests costly procedures every time you go in, or if they are not willing to work with you on a payment plan, it’s time to find another dentist.

*Poor Work

If your fillings fall out, veneers come off and crowns come loose not long after the work has been completed, it could be a sign that you are seeing a bad dentist. However, if you ate something your dentist told you to stay away from and your filling or crown or veneer came loose, don’t blame your dentist.

Staff Queries

Get to know your dental hygienist. Ask him/her if their family gets their dental work done at that office. If they say no, that should be a red flag for you. If the dental hygienist isn’t even comfortable bringing their family there, then you shouldn’t be comfortable going there either.

Post-Checkup Response

How do you feel after your checkup? Your dentist is supposed to improve your dental health not create more problems. A good dentist can provide his/her patients with routine services without causing you longer discomfort. If you’re still experiencing bleeding weeks or months after you have had a root canal, crowns, bridges, or if you dentures keep falling out, then you need to find a new dentist, no question.


Know the Difference Between Good and Bad Dentistry

Here’s how (ask yourself these questions):

  • What is your first impression of the dental office based on scheduling, office atmosphere and wait time?
  • What is your pain level at the office? Does the dentist try to minimize your pain during treatment?
  • Is their dental equipment clean?
  • Does the dentist practice good hygiene before cleaning your mouth?
  • Have you noticed a monetary obsession at that particular office through suggesting extreme and unnecessary procedures, upselling or requesting full payment before dental work is given.
  • Do you have to get repeat work done? If so, that may be a reflection of poor dental work. Not always though.
  • Do they follow up with their patients after a checkup?

Filter your experience through this lens and you’ll be able to determine the quality of your dentist. Need more tips on evaluating your dentist, see How to Interview a Dentist.

What has been your best dental experience? Describe it for us in the comment section below.