Choosing an affordable dentist can be a major hassle. Whether you’re new to an area, or you’re simply looking for a more affordable provider, finding a new dentist can feel like an overwhelming task. You know you want someone you can trust, someone more than just a person to clean your teeth. You want to feel comfortable and safe when you and your family go in for a visit and you want to know you’re getting the best possible treatment for you and your loved ones.
So how do you choose? There are often hundreds, if not thousands, of dentists near you so how do you select the right one and feel confident in doing so?
To help you narrow the field and find the right person and the right dental office for you, there are four basic steps to follow, along with several ADA recommendations and guidelines. Each of those four steps are outlined below.
Step 1: Get The Basics
The first step is to find basic information about the dental office you’re considering. You’ll want to answer the following questions, along with any of your own that you have:
- Is it close to your work or school or home?
- Are their office hours convenient for your schedule?
- Does your insurance cover this particular dentist?
- Do you and the dentist speak the same language? If not, do they have a translator or interpreter available for you?
- And, of course, are they a member of the ADA?
Step 2: Start Searching
With the answers to those questions under your belt, you are now ready to start narrowing your search for an affordable dentist in your area.
If you have a recommendation from a family member or friend you trust, then you can skip on to the next section called Office Visits. Otherwise, take a look at these places to hone in on a potential dentist for you:
- The ADA has something called Find-A-Dentist. You can search by name or location or specialty, or any combination of those three. This is a great research tool when finding a new dental practitioner!
- Your local dental society. They will tell you which dentists are practicing in your area. You can continue your search by exploring the names they give you.
- If you don’t have dental insurance or there isn’t an affordable dentist near you try local dental schools. This page on the ADA’s website has a list of each state’s dental schools. Typically dental schools will offer reduced fees for services.
- You can also contact your local health department to find practitioners who can offer you the affordable dental care you need. Because assistance varies widely from state to state you’ll want to visit this ADA page and find out what is offered in your area.
- And if you have a child who needs dental care but you can’t afford it, try contacting the ADA Foundation’s Give Kids A Smile (GKAS). GKAS offers access to dental services like preventative care, screenings, treatments, and education to kids who otherwise may not be able to receive care.
- There is also the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). CHIP provides free or low-cost health coverage for kids up to the age of 19 for both U.S. citizens and eligible immigrants.
Also while you’re looking through potential dentists you may notice some are DDS and some are DMD. The ADA explains that these mean the same thing.
A DDS is a dentist who has a Doctor of Dental Surgery and a DMD is a dentist who has a Doctor of Dental Medicine. These are the same degrees, the same level of education and training, the same dental school academic standards. Both of these types of dentists have gone through the same rigorous written exams, the same state or regional licensing exams and they must meet the same continuing education requirements.
Once you’ve used these sites and tools and have found a few good candidates, it’s time to visit their websites, check out their social media and learn more about them. Then it’ll be time for you to visit your potential new dentist office.
Step 3: Office Visits
Now you’re on to your third step in the process of finding an affordable dentist, and this is an important step of actually visiting potential new dentists. When you have narrowed down your search to just a few dentists be sure to call and chat with them, and set up a visit.
Any dentist you see should be happy to meet with you for a consult with them and their staff so you can decide if they are right for you.
While you’re there you’ll want to ask questions, here are a few suggestions:
- Do they provide help with preventing dental issues (i.e. education and instruction)?
- How do they deal with dental emergencies outside of normal operating hours?
- What about the financial side: how do they work with your insurance company?
- What are other payment options they offer for any additional treatments not covered by insurance?
- Do they explain fees and costs ahead of time, before going forward with a procedure?
- Where and how will your history be stored?
- How would they address any of your dental concerns (i.e. anxiety about visiting the dentist)?
Also be sure to look around the office. Is it neat, tidy and pleasant to be in? Or do you feel even more uncertain or anxious about their services as a result of being in their environment?
You will also want to confirm they are a member of the ADA. The reason having an ADA member as your dentist has been stressed repeatedly is because of the ADA’s strict standards and their member code of conduct. All ADA dentists agree to uphold these standards in their practice and do so on a voluntary basis.
To help you understand the importance of these standards, below are the 5 pledges all ADA dentists take. These are the ADA Principles of Ethics and Code of Professional Conduct. They help you know what to expect from an ADA dentist and what you should anticipate during each of your visits to their dental office.
Respect a Patient’s Wants and Needs
This first principle of respecting a patient’s wants and needs simply states that you as the patient have the right to be involved in any decisions about your dental treatment and your dental care. You also have the right to privacy about that care, and confidentiality as well. ADA dentists have a duty to put your needs first and to respect those needs and your wants. ADA dentists also have a duty to actively involve you in the treatment plan process and to keep in mind your wants and needs within the bounds of that treatment.
Do No Harm
Dentists are medical professionals, and just like other doctors, they take a pledge to do no harm. Their primary duty is to keep you safe and keep you healthy. This means they must refer you to specialists as needed, and they must also continue their education to stay on top of the latest trends, discoveries, and advances in dental medicine.
In today’s world, new advances are made and technologies can quickly emerge in any part of dentistry so your ADA dentist has pledged to keep abreast of this on a continual basis. By knowing the latest advances in the dental world they provide you and their other patients with the highest level of effective, safe and science-based care.
By becoming a member of the ADA, your dentist has taken the pledge to provide you with the best possible quality care in a timely manner and will consider and include your needs, desires, and values as much as possible.
Doing good also means they will treat you as an individual and offer you what is best for you. The dentists will also discuss treatment options, procedures and other dental matters with you as a collective; they will not tell you what needs to be done but rather will explain why a procedure will be beneficial for you, alternatives (if there are any), costs, what to expect before, during and after any procedure and other details. They will also explain the science behind it, and help you come to a decision that fits your needs.
An ADA dentist does not discriminate based on age, race, gender, creed, religion, economics, ethnicity, health conditions or any other criteria. They will treat everyone fairly and equally and have pledged to do so by being a member of the American Dental Association.
ADA dentists know you must trust them in order to have a healthy, quality working relationship. They also know in order to trust them they must be honest with you, which in turn allows you to be honest with them. It’s vital they have your trust so you know your dentist will find the best possible treatment process and procedures for you, together. The best doctor-patient relationships are partnerships based on trust and honesty.
With those ADA member agreements in mind, you can finally move on to the final step of actually choosing your affordable dentist.
Step 4: Choose Your Dentist
When selecting your next dentist, be sure to find someone who fits into your existing healthcare providers and services. Oral health is a critical part of your overall health so you want to select a dentist who can be your trusted advisor and partner. Your dentist should be someone who will help you make the best dental care choices for you and your loved ones.
When you’ve gone through all the other steps of researching, asking questions, making phone calls and scheduling visits, you’ll have all the information you need to choose an affordable dentist and you’ll be able to pick the right dentist for you.