How to Find a Good Dentist – A Complete Guide

How to find a good dentist tops lists of recent parenting questions. It also appears for people hitting 30 and suddenly realizing they don’t remember the last time they said “ah” to a person in a white coat.

Looking for a good dentist takes more careful research than searching for a doctor because a dentist does more specialized work. What one dentist recommends as a treatment and maintenance program may differ from another.

Swapping between dentists requires a lot of the same tests and pictures to be taken over and over, which doesn’t help your wallet or teeth.

So, read on to make the right choice upfront and leave the terrifying what-ifs for the moment in the chair when you hear a whir you just don’t like.

How to Find a Good Dentist Checklist

The secret to finding a great dentist is to approach the problem methodically. You want to work the list up and down and side to side with occasional gentle circles. For the gums.


This list goes over the most important elements first and winds down to the nitty-gritty.

We’ll cover:

  • Types of Practice
  • Office Location
  • Office Hours
  • Emergency Services
  • Pricing

We’ll also flesh out those categories into section as needed. So, lay back, relax, and prepare yourself for the information intrusion.

Type of Practice

Knowing what type of dentist, you need will be the most direct path to answering the question. When you want to find a good dentist knowing what services they specialize in gives you a better notion.

Generally, a dentist can be more of a general practice or have a specialization. Many times, a dental office will be a combination of several dentists with different specializations. This provides a whole spectrum of options under one roof.

Family dentistry and general cosmetic dentistry are the two most common practices. When looking for family dentistry it is still important to note that they will be interested in doing some procedures over others.

For a family dentist that prefers teeth cleaning you can learn more. Note that this is just one offering, but by advertising for the service they put it square in the middle of their practice.

That is a good thing. Look for a dentist that offers or advertises specifically for your core need and you will find better services and prices.

Other types of practices run the gamut to include everything from pedodontists (specializing in child care) to maxillofacial surgeons (surgery and extractions to repair damage). You may also have heard of periodontists (which work with the gums) and orthodontists (which work with bite uniformity).

Seeing a specialist offers better immediate treatment options. Which doesn’t mean a specialist is needed for everything. Most of the continuing health and maintenance can be done by general dentists.

Like any other medical provider, dentists like to see patients for routine check-ups and in good overall health.


Once you know what type of dentistry you need, it is time to select a dentist that provides the best version of that.

The first step in establishing the track record of a dentist is credentials. Where did they go to school, in which professional societies do they hold membership?

A good dentist will be proud of their schooling and certification. They should have this information shareable on a website or literature posted at the office.


Next, check referrals. Like shopping for any other service, check with friends and family to see if they have an opinion of the dentist you are considering. Read reviews online and pay attention to complaints and praise floating around.

Talking to the office receptionists may also provide information about their practice and the quality of work.

Pay attention to the buzz about demeanor and ability to handle problems. Many people dislike dentists and can be difficult in the chair. A dentist skilled in-patient care can help alleviate fears and make the process better.

Fear of dental treatments affects 9-15% of people. Dental phobia is real and can be a serious issue for some folks. Dentists are trained to help deal with patients experiencing these issues.

Lastly, if you have a current dentist you are leaving (hopefully because you moved towns) they may offer a known associate. Working with a dentist referred by another dentist can give a certain continuity of care.

Office Location

Which brings us to an important point about location. Finding a great dentist is all well and good. Finding a good dentist in your area is something else. Often times looking at something like 1-800 Dentist or similar finding sites do a poor job of defining an ‘in area’ option.

A dentist office down the street and in the same megalopolis are two different things.

A location needs to be close enough to reach without traveling an hour in both directions and in a location, you are comfortable going to.

Remember that with some dental procedures it is not recommended to drive yourself home after. A dentist location with access to public transit or rides makes a real difference.

Office Hours

Next, you want an office that provides services at the time convenient for you. Many offices operate during the same kind of daylight hours that jobs occur during. Getting out of work to hit a dentist appointment may not always be possible. If for no other reason than some types of work just can’t be done shortly after a dentist visit.

Look for offices that have some after-hours times to help. Hours after school also make for better in and out service with children rather than removing kids for checkups. Though, the incentive of missing school can make the fear of going to the dentist even out for some children.

Emergency Services

Note if and when the dentist offers emergency care services. When a tooth gets dislodged by a sudden sporting accident time can be of the essence. For chips, breaks, and other pain issues emergency services can be a lot better than an emergency room or urgent care visit.

Dentists can actually fix the problem where others will mitigate pain until you can get to a dentist.

Emergency dental services can have different prices than normal operation, which is to be expected. However, the quality of service in fixing the problem all at once can certainly save you stress and money over hospital services.


Which brings us to the money question. Some may rephrase the original question from:

  • ‘How to choose a dentist?’


  • ‘How to choose a dentist I can afford?’

Being concerned about price doesn’t make you cheap or picky. Changes to prices in dentistry and the limits of those prices cause a lot of concern.

Like most things in life, some comparison shopping and keeping in mind what all you are paying for comes into play. A dentist on the other side of town with average credentials and services at a cheap rate may not be best. Look for that meeting point of your needs and your means.

Make pricing a late concern. It matters less than other factors most times.

Of course, many dentists have robust in-patient networks with insurance companies. That is, depending on the insurance you carry. Insurance for dental services often saves more in the preventative and maintenance procedures.

Emergency and large-scale procedures face less of a discount. A set of braces or a sudden root canal will still be expensive, but usually half price or so with insurance over not having any.


Check for hidden fees within a pricing plan from your prospective dentist. While a procedure itself may be within your budget, it may have extras attached. The most common fees relate to administrative fees or equipment fees.

A dentist shouldn’t be charging you for sterilization or gloves in an itemized list. These things are generally considered to be rolled into the price of a procedure so a dentist listing these things may be double charging.

Make certain you understand what fees will be involved and why. Don’t just take their word for it when a little research can help eliminate contentious arguments over bills.

Payment Plans

Many dentists understand that paying for dental care is hard. People rarely budget for dentistry and find paying for a procedure to be an extra expense. In the case of children, a checkup for one is usually a good time to get everyone looked at and procedures on top can become a real hit to the wallet.

check out what kind of payment plans a dentist office offers. Normally a monthly payment with some services suspended while a balance hold is common.

More Home and Health Tips

Taking care of dental health doesn’t have to be as bad as going to the dentist. Well, it sorta does, that is how dental health happens. However, that doesn’t’ mean knowing how to find a good dentist has to be hard!

Looking for more health tips and information? We have a whole topic just for that. Click around and find the answers to the questions you need to have answered.

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