What to look for in dentists for the over-40 crowd
March 14, 2022 4:21 PM   Subscribe

Hi all! Due to a move, I'm looking for a new dentist. Due to COVID (and before that, having a busy job and a young kid), it has been too long since I've been to see a dentist. What should I look for beyond the basics?

I'm wondering if there are new best practices to look for. I see some dentists talk about being great with kids and things like that, but are there practices to help people who (hopefully) don't have any emergencies but want to improve their teeth? I don't have any specific concerns -- just basic questions like if my enamel is wearing away and if I can strengthen / replace / coat it, whether whitening makes sense, that sort of thing. Also, are there best practices related to COVID aside from masking?
posted by slidell to Health & Fitness (6 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know if there are any new best practices to look for, but I'd think that a younger dentist is more likely to be up on new technologies and treatments than someone nearing retirement. I had to find a new dentist about a year ago, and of course the main factor was whether they were on my insurance plan. After that, I looked for good reviews. I lucked out and got someone young. She's been great. She's very up on the latest things, and her practice has a milling machine to make crowns and implants. I had to get a crown, and rather than the old way where they'd take a mold, you'd get a temporary one, send off the mold to a lab, and get the thing weeks later, she scans your mouth, comes up with a tooth design, sends it off to the machine, and it's done in 45 minutes. So, if I was looking a new dentist, I'd certainly see if I could find out about what technology the practice has access to.
posted by jonathanhughes at 4:53 PM on March 14, 2022 [2 favorites]

I go to a big city dental school which provides both the latest techniques and the latest upsells. Whoever you go to will take x-rays and probe your gaps, which will tell them if there are any treatments they should offer you. Beyond that it's still just brushing and flossing.
posted by rhizome at 4:54 PM on March 14, 2022 [1 favorite]

I would ask people who you think are in a similar situation, possibly wanting to maintain/improve their dental health because quite frankly they don't have other things overwhelming their bandwidth. Who do they visit? Do they like him/her? Why?

As to COVID: everything I hear is that dentists and their staffs fared well through the pandemic because their routine safety protocols were appropriate and they didn't have to make many changes in order to keep working safely.
posted by DrGail at 5:12 PM on March 14, 2022

awww the west wing *wipes away nostalgic tear* .. well, i’m not sure what to look for but glad other people seem to know , and mostly just came in to congratulate you on deciding to go .. you are now my role model.
posted by elgee at 9:08 PM on March 14, 2022 [1 favorite]

Yep, technology has shifted a lot and seems to have helped improve the whole workflow but you do need a younger dentist, and one who is genuinley interested. Re insurance I'm in NZ so ymmv but both my dentists and my oral surgeon went out of there way to get as much of my recent work covered by my insurance - which made a huge diff. as dentistry here is as $$$ as in the US.

Some amazing new drugs too, esp. if you've always been averse to dentists due to horrible dentists back in your youth. Modern dentists, at least IME also seem to have a better understanding of pain and how to avoid causing it.
posted by unearthed at 9:26 PM on March 14, 2022

but you do need a younger dentist, and one who is genuinley interested

Coming in to push back against this idea. I recently left my older dentist because, nearing retirement, he was turning over more and more of his practice to a recently graduated dentist, and she just didn't know as much. He had stopped taking my insurance, so he was quite expensive - seeing him or his wife (also a dentist) was worth it for me. Seeing her was not.

She thought she had found a cancer in my mouth - even ordered additional x-rays. When she finally called him in, he took one look and had enough experience to know that wasn't what was going on at all. Experience matters in dentistry and everything else. He went to conferences and read journals - he knew as much about the latest techniques as she did. He was training her to be a better dentist, and she knew it. And who do you think teaches those techniques in the dental schools?

Personal recommendations are your best bet. Try NextDoor if you don't know anyone in the area. But don't let your internalized ageism make the decision for you.
posted by FencingGal at 2:53 AM on March 15, 2022 [4 favorites]

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