Dentist Shopping
April 6, 2012 11:31 AM   Subscribe

What am I looking for in a dentist?

After a long period of avoidance, I need to find a new dentist. (Part of an old filling fell out.) I have a vague idea that technology (laser?) must have advanced, so my goal is to find someone who is using the newest, best equipment/procedures to make the experience as tolerable as possible. So what exactly am I looking for? What are the key phrases to identify dentists who are optimally au courant?
posted by Lizzle to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I go to cosmetic dentists as long as they also do cleanings and stuff rather than the normal family dentist type. It costs the same on my insurance, they can do all the regular dental stuff in addition to the fancy cosmetic stuff like teeth whitening, and they tend to have the latest gizmos and gadgets and since they're mainly selling cosmetic stuff you don't actually need, they tend to compete on experience and being a place you'd want to drop 10 grand on new teeth or whatever. You do have to watch out for upsells sometimes, but that's pretty easy to avoid.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 11:47 AM on April 6, 2012

My uncle is a(n excellent) dentist (and actually the only one I've ever gone to). Eventually, I'll need to get a new dentist (since my uncle lives 1000+ miles away and I only see him on holidays) here in Chicago. A while back I asked him for recommendations on how to find someone as good as he is. This is what he suggested...

Use the "find a dentist" feature on the Academy of General Dentistry website here. When you're typing in your search parameters, check the boxes for FAGD and MAGD. It will return dentists who have received fellowships and masters. (Depending on where you live, you may not get many results for MAGD, but searching for folks who only have a fellowship is OK, too.)

Generally, the people who have gone on to do the continuing education stuff are the ones who are going to be at the top of their game and introducing the new techniques and technologies into their practices.

I'd go with one of them.
posted by phunniemee at 12:10 PM on April 6, 2012 [3 favorites]

SINGLE TOOTH ANESTHESIA!! It's awesome. It doesn't hurt as much as the traditional injection (though it takes longer to administer), and the anesthetic affects only the tooth being worked on. Your face won't be numb the rest of the day and the inside of your cheeks or your tongue won't end up a bloody mess when you have your lunch. My dentist doesn't use all the latest gadgets and gizmos, but he has this and it is the best thing ever in dentistry.
posted by ellenaim at 12:18 PM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Be careful about being too seduced by the newest hottest stuff, though, especially when it comes to cosmetics. There are plenty of dentists out there doing procedures that are not necessarily good for the long-term health your teeth (or such is my understanding from dental hygiene professors I've worked with).

I found my current dentist through Yelp and I really like them - they are super-friendly, very service oriented, there's loads of entertaining stuff in the waiting room but I've never spent more than about two minutes there because they're really on the ball. I hadn't had a cleaning in a couple of years before I started going to this office and I remember on my first visit they did use some kind of sonic cleaning tool that I hadn't had before. I haven't had any fillings or crowns or anything done since I started with this dentist, though.
posted by mskyle at 12:25 PM on April 6, 2012

I had a cleaning and exam at a super-convenient basic dental chain near my house (the strip mall kind). I decided I needed a real dentist, and got a recommendation from a coworker. Result: everything Dentist A did had to be redone, starting with the xrays and ending with both fillings that he converted from metal amalgam to modern white needing root canals in the next 18 months.

Things the new Dentist B does that convinces me he's awesome:
- Dentist B has digital rather than film x-rays; the panoramic x-ray film that dentist A took was lower resolution than Dentist B liked to work with, and he was interested in closer looks at details that hte film just didn't show.
- Also a fiber camera that they can take optical images of tooth surfaces. All those images and x-rays display on a computer monitor on a swing-arm over the chair. That means discussions of what hte problem is and how he proposes to handle it are much more interesting and less intimidating, because I can see what about my tooth he wants to fix.
- I also had a cap put on a tooth (kind of halfway between a crown and a filling) and there was a computerized milling machine in the office; he took images of the remains of the tooth, and the shape of the teeth around it, and created a 3D image of what the cap needed to be. Put a standard ceramic stock in the machine and it is carved to the right shape in about 20 minutes, instead of having to be sent out for manufacture and I come back next week for install.
- The endodontist who did my root canals had the personal entertainment thing going on, watch a video, listen to music, etc. while they're working, but I wasn't so into that.
- One of the hygenists used a sonic pick as a substitute/augment to the scrapey things when she said I hadn't been flossing and my gums bled too much.

I've never heard of single tooth anaesthesia; that sounds pretty cool.
posted by aimedwander at 12:29 PM on April 6, 2012

My dentist has the fancy CEREC machine that aimedwander describes.
I've had a filling & a crown done this way & it's quite amazing. Neither restoration required anaesthesia. The first time I was asked if I wanted to watch the filling being milled, which HELL YES.
It's rather pricey, but so worth it, especially for the crown.
posted by goshling at 2:53 PM on April 6, 2012

Well if you are afraid of the dentist, find one who is sensitive to this and will be patient with you.
posted by radioamy at 3:00 PM on April 6, 2012

Be careful about being too seduced by the newest hottest stuff, though, especially when it comes to cosmetics. There are plenty of dentists out there doing procedures that are not necessarily good for the long-term health your teeth (or such is my understanding from dental hygiene professors I've worked with).

Quoted for truth. There are new gadgets constantly coming out, and they're marketed heavily. The clinical experience required to understand the risks/benefits/weird stuff of a device or technique takes years if not decades.

Here are the main things I'd suggest (having worked in a dental setting for about 5 years):
- get a referral from a friend or someone else you trust
- personality/bedside manner counts for a lot in a general dentist -- you have to feel comfortable asking questions or even expressing doubts about whether you want to go through with a certain procedure.
- if you know you're going to need/want [Procedure X], find the person who does them every day. They're going to be more likely to recognize the individual quirks of each case, and know what to do if something doesn't go according to expectation.
- if your dentist doesn't have you fill out a full medical history at your first visit, run away. Medications and other health problems can interact with your dental issues (aside from the most well-known factors of heart defects and orthopedic joint replacement). If your dentist doesn't know your health history, they aren't getting the full picture.
- if the dentist advises you to get all your silver fillings replaced with white fillings, even in teeth that haven't been bothering you, run away.

New technology is the last thing you need to worry about. A skilled, thoughtful dentist with old-fashioned hand instruments is always better than a fast-talker with a laser.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 4:35 PM on April 6, 2012

I love my dental office (there are several dentists in the practice). I have never had to have a major procedure at my dentist's office, so I can't comment on that. However, I've been faithful for years in getting 6 month checkups. Here are the things that stand out to me:

1. Flatscreen monitors in every examination room that are switched on to some distracting/intriguing documentaries during the cleaning. This makes things go by so much more quickly and painlessly.
2. Digital X-rays that are hooked up to a digital monitor and can be displayed immediately after they are taken.
3. A fully computerized digital records management system that does automated e-mails, calls, text for appointment reminders.

I would say in my experience, though, that the single most important factor in liking my dentist is the HYGIENIST. I interact with the hygienist for 20-30 minutes and maybe 2-3 minutes with the dentist during routine cleanings. Having a pleasant, gentle but thorough hygienist is really very important and for me is the biggest reason why I don't dread dental appointments.
posted by sherlockt at 6:26 PM on April 6, 2012

Have hygenists that listen to you, aren't patronizing parroters of their training, and dont push expensive arestin treatments on you when completely unneeded. I would ask them in advance what circumstances they would use arestin!
posted by lalochezia at 11:38 AM on April 7, 2012

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