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| August-September 2013

Finding a New Dentist: How to Simplify Your Search

By Susan Flowers and Lindsay Oberst

Newcomers to the Atlanta area face a seemingly endless list

of tasks, from arranging for utilities to finding new resources for shopping and home maintenance. Among the crucial chores that could easily be neglected in those busy first few weeks: choosing a new dentist.

Care of the teeth and gums is important for the overall health of children and adults.

But how do you find the right dentist when you’ve just moved to a new city? Simply picking the practice closest to your home or work, or selecting one at random, might provide a bad match. Fortunately, there are ways to simplify your search.

One step is to consult the Georgia Dental Association (GDA) website (see sidebar) and search for member dentists who operate near you. All GDA members agree to abide by the ethical standards reflected in the American Dental Association’s Principles of Ethics and Code of Professional Conduct.

Dr. Sidney Tourial, president of the GDA, advises new residents to quiz their neighbors about their dentist. “Is the office clean? Do they like the care they receive?” he asks. He also recommends visiting social media sites and other websites where patients can rate and comment on health care providers.

It’s also a good idea to ask your previous dentist. “When people come to me and say they’re moving away, I happen to know a lot of dentists that practice similar to the way I do,” Tourial says. “So if they’re happy with me, they’ll be happy with who I recommend.”

The Right Dentist for You

Once you have a recommendation or two, you’ll want to check the background of your potential dentist. Knowing more about a professional’s education and experience can help you to have confidence in your care.

The Georgia Secretary of State’s website allows visitors to check that a dentist has an up-to-date license and find out whether any disciplinary actions have been taken against that provider by the Georgia Board of Dentistry in the past several years.

You’ll also want to make sure your potential dentist is a member of a reputable professional organization such as the GDA, the Georgia Dental Society or the American Dental Association.

Just as with any other profession, dentistry’s knowledge base and best practices are constantly evolving, and your new dentist should be up to speed on the latest information and training. Georgia requires that dentists complete a minimum of 40 hours of continuing education every two years, with at least 20 of those hours acquired at an on-site course or seminar.

Among the questions to keep in mind when interviewing a prospective dentist:

  • Is the dentist keeping up with new techniques? Is his or her equipment up-to-date?
  • Is the location convenient? “If it’s hard to get to your dentist,” says Tourial, “you’re not gonna go.”
  • Do the hours or appointment schedule work within your availability?
  • How are emergencies handled outside of normal business hours?
  • Does the dentist explain the proposed treatment and other issues related to your overall health?
  • Is information provided about fees and payment options?

The Right Dentist for Your Child

While a general practitioner can usually provide excellent care for your entire family, some parents may wish to consider a pediatric dentist, one who specializes in the care of children.

Pediatric dentists complete two to three years of additional training to specialize in treating children, says Dr. Charlie Coulter, chief dental officer at Dentistry for Children.

What’s more, he adds, they are “uniquely qualified to treat a child who is having his or her first dental visit, to treat early childhood tooth decay, a child overcoming a negative experience in a previous dental or physician’s office and children with special needs.”

When it comes to finding a pediatric dentist, “It’s better to go with word of mouth rather than what you see on a billboard,” says Dr. Michael Healey, a pediatric orthodontist serving Roswell and Dunwoody. Check with friends and family in the area, as well as your neighbors, parents at your child’s new school or fellow church members for recommendations.

When screening a candidate, ask how many offices he or she has. “If they have five offices,” Healey asks, “how much time can they spend with your child?” It’s also important to ask how many patients the dentist sees daily. “Personally, I see around 30 or 40,” he says. “There are some offices that see 120 kids a day, which means the doctor only has three minutes with a child.”

Someone You Can Trust

For many patients, establishing a rapport with a dentist is crucial. Dr. Charles King, president of the Georgia Dental Society, says that’s just as important for the dentist.

“Good relationships produce better results,” he says. “As health care providers, we always want to give our best to whoever walks through our doors; even more so, we want to form lasting relationships that enable our patients to feel confident and secure that their lives are in great hands. Honestly, it keeps them coming back.”

When talking with a potential provider, ask yourself if he or she is someone you feel comfortable with—one you can trust with your health, or your child’s.

“An outstanding dentist, in my opinion, is one who gives his or her best for the benefit of his or her patients every single day,” says King, “no matter what the procedure, no matter what the cost.”

American Dental Association

Georgia Dental Association

Georgia Dental Society

Georgia Secretary of State

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