No, really, how do I find a dentist?
July 5, 2017 12:12 PM   Subscribe

Not looking for recommmendations as much as a better understanding of how this works. I have dental insurance, I search the provider page for dentists within 5 miles, and am able to see 100 of the 500 available without filtering by name. I google each practice (not each provider) and veto anyone with bad reviews (on average) or no web presence/reviews. I am left with three dentists.

Then with my three dentists I find one on Zoc Doc where it says she doesn't actually take my plan (I assume my plan page is more accurate, right?)

I can't find a full list of all 500, I'm only allowed 100, and it seems like everyone is either terrible or scammy. Is there a better way? Do I need to subscribe to a recommendation service? Is there some great way to find a good dentist who isn't trying to upsell me whitening and Invisalign?

I have a United Concordia DPPO if that's relevant.
posted by OrangeVelour to Health & Fitness (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Ask someone you know for a recommendation.

And keep in mind that mad people are generally the ones who leave bad reviews online - not just for dentists, but for everything. Most of those dentists with bad reviews are probably fine. I picked the closest one to my house and it's worked out fine. You can always start with someone conveniently located and if you don't like it, don't go back.
posted by something something at 12:22 PM on July 5 [10 favorites]

Word of mouth? (pun intended). No seriously, this is how I've always found my dentists. Ask around, find out who they see, THEN see if they take your insurance. My husband has referred like half a dozen people to our current dentist.
posted by eeek at 12:23 PM on July 5 [1 favorite]

For dentists, I've always asked friends and family for who they recommend. It's one of those things I don't think I'd ever go online to check out.
posted by xingcat at 12:23 PM on July 5

I have better luck seeing what dentists are close by on google maps, then confirming with the office if they take your insurance.
posted by bleep at 12:30 PM on July 5 [4 favorites]

Online recommendations for medical providers are really unreliable. I would ask around your network and if that's not yielding results, I would check on NextDoor or your neighborhood Facebook page for recommendations. Fortunately, unless you're in a very restrictive HMO, there are many fewer dental plans than medical plans and so most dentists take multiple ones. You should plan to call the office to see if they take your insurance.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 12:33 PM on July 5

Thanks so far - I understand word of mouth is the gold standard, but I'd like to hear other ideas - I don't know a lot of people here and the recommendations I've received aren't covered by my plan.
posted by OrangeVelour at 12:33 PM on July 5 [1 favorite]

Oh and also I wouldn't worry about lack of web presence or bad reviews. I look at the reviews too but, if every dentist has only bad reviews (which is my experience too) it makes me think that the dentist is a place where people go specifically to have necessary but unpleasant experiences. If they get out feeling like it wasn't as bad as they thought it was going to be they just move on and don't feel compelled to go online and document it.
posted by bleep at 12:34 PM on July 5 [1 favorite]

Nthing word-of-mouth. Ask you co-workers if they like their dentist. People like to give recommendations, plus, you'll know right off the bat whether they take your company's insurance.
posted by donajo at 12:34 PM on July 5 [1 favorite]

I found my wonderful dentist years ago by checking out old AskMe questions about dentists in my city. (I probably wouldn't have trusted any other online source of information besides this one.) If you live in a big enough place this might work for you.
posted by sophieblue at 12:38 PM on July 5

Discounting word of mouth, I would mostly do what you are doing. I would not weight the bad reviews too highly, for the reasons noted above , unless they are perhaps something extremely egregious.

The other tack I might take is to start by looking at the physical locations that would be convenient for me - perhaps right near home or right near work? - and do a Google Maps hunt for dentists in the area. Then I might take that as a starter list, check to see who's listed in my insurance provider list, see who has a web presence, and go from there.

One other option that's sort of but not entirely word of mouth would be seeing if you have any sort of local community place to ask for a recommendation - perhaps a site or a neighborhood listserv? If so, I'd post a request for help there (or perhaps search the archives for previous recommendations.) People seem to love to offer personal recommendations in those venues, and it doesn't rely on you personally having a local friend group built up.
posted by Stacey at 12:39 PM on July 5 [1 favorite]

As others have said, don't let online reviews freak you out. People are more likely to complain about bad experiences than commend good ones. Also, many people are dumb. (This is doubly true where online restaurant reviews are concerned.)

Also, do not necessarily take "no" for an answer. Be (gently) insistent. The last two dental visits I had, within the last three months, I was informed flatly that they did not take my insurance. After some gentle coaxing, both offices did more research and learned that I was, in fact, covered under some kind of umbrella package of plans. I am also on United Concordia, so be aware -- when I mentioned it on the phone, both offices were like, "Oh no, we DEFINITELY don't take United Concordia."

The most recent time I did this, it took three phone calls and two weeks to get it sorted, so don't give up hope if it's someone you'd really like to see. Dental is weird.
posted by Mothlight at 12:39 PM on July 5

If you have a community Facebook page, I've seen a lot of "asking for recommendations" type of questions from people new to an area, and people LOVE to weigh in on those kinds of things. I got my dentist from word of mouth years ago from coworkers, however! And after I changed jobs, he's considered out of network, which means that I can still go, but I pay more out of pocket (MetLife still covers some of it), but I still won't give him up.
posted by clone boulevard at 12:55 PM on July 5

My uncle is a dentist. This is what he suggested I do when I moved far away and needed to find my first not-my-uncle dentist. This is the way I found a dentist I've been very happy with.

-Go to the search section on the Academy of General Dentistry website.

-Search for dentists in your area who have received their FAGD or MAGD. These are the dentists who have taken a pile of continuing education courses so tend to be pretty up to date on tooth technology and modern dentistry practices. (And as a result tend to be a lot more conservative about drilling, pulling, etc.)

-Take what will now be a VERY short list of names back to your insurance provider website, and look them up by name. If you have any hits for dental nerds your insurance covers, that's your new search pool.

-Check yelp and make sure they're not real shitty with their billing or whatever.

-Call and make an appointment.
posted by phunniemee at 1:00 PM on July 5 [39 favorites]

I've had good luck searching zocdoc directly and filtering by my area/insurance, though obviously plenty of dentists will not be on zocdoc so that only works in a place with a wealth of options (but it sounds like that's true for you). That way, I've also been able to filter for other things I like such as convenient appointment times (and not having to call anyone).
posted by R a c h e l at 1:04 PM on July 5

If your provider directory and another website disagree on whether one dentist is a provider in your network, the best way to find out is to call the practice. You don't even have to leave your name. Just say, "Hi, I have a question: I'm covered by X Insurance Company, and I was wondering if you're a provider in their network." They say yes or no; you say thanks and goodbye and hang up.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:25 PM on July 5

Somebody is going to be poking around your mouth with sharp tools, and possibly a power drill. Personal recommendation is the only way to go here.


Then with my three dentists I find one on Zoc Doc where it says she doesn't actually take my plan (I assume my plan page is more accurate, right?)

I wouldn't count on it. My medical insurance plan lists dead doctors as still participating, so...
posted by COD at 1:39 PM on July 5

I want to second that you should ask the dentist if they take your insurance, even if they aren't listed on the insurance web page. I just picked a new dentist (who I chose from a recommendation on Nextdoor) and although he wasn't listed on my insurance's website when I called his office they said they would take my insurance.
posted by interplanetjanet at 4:31 PM on July 5

Let's see if we can at least help you gain access to all 500 dentists. Who knows, maybe there's a great one near you, with a website and a lengthy history of positive reviews.

Is your "find a provider" page public, could you link it here and share the zip code? If it's not public, can you share your insurance provider, plan name, and zip code?
posted by reeddavid at 5:01 PM on July 5

I found my amazing dentist by looking up dentists near me on yelp and picking one that got good reviews for what I was interested in (I have some dental phobia so I wanted a dentist who could deal with that). I then checked to see if they were covered by my insurance, which they were. If you get conflicting info about coverage, just call the office.

I was lucky that my chosen dentist was in my network, but I've used this method when I had more limiting coverage and it worked well, though I had to try a few different doctors before I found one who sounded good and who was covered.
posted by lunasol at 8:01 PM on July 5

If you have employer provided dental insurance, ask your coworkers. It's not an unusual ask, and you'll know they're in-network.
posted by decathecting at 8:29 PM on July 5

Does your insurance provider page allow you to narrow your search other than by distance? Can you search for female dentists, narrow that list down, then search for male dentists, narrow that list down? Or use some other additional criteria?
posted by lazuli at 8:45 PM on July 5

When I moved away, my childhood dentist advised me to find a dental faculty practice (the practice run by professors at the local dental school). I found them to be extremely honest and very reasonably priced, but with the drawback that appointment times were more limited because they were also teaching and that you had to submit your own insurance.

I had to move away and there's no dental school nearby; my current dentist I found on Angie's list and he is competent and nice but a little up-selly.
posted by Comrade_robot at 6:55 AM on July 6

I would do word-of-mouth, but specifically ask your coworkers who they like -- they're most likely going to be in your network (unless they're covered under a spouse's plan).

Also it sounds like from your description you had it narrowed down to three...did you actually call those dentists and ask specifically if they took your insurance? I would do that rather than ruling them out because of ZocDoc...even if one of them is incorrectly listed in the insurance website, it seems unlikely that all three would be!
posted by rainbowbrite at 10:35 AM on July 6

I found the dentist I have and like by looking at a list of top dentists that a local magazine puts out. I cross-referenced that list of dentists with my insurance and it worked out well.
posted by purple_bird at 1:53 PM on July 6

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