If going to the dentist isn’t stressful enough, deciding which dental office is right for you can add to the difficulty of this process. There are certain factors that you, as a patient, should be looking for in a dental practice that you desire to make your dental home. These factors should be used to assess the dentist, staff, and dental office to aid you in being as comfortable as possible when visiting your dental home. Listed below details the most important of these factors, from the perspective of a dentist.
-Education/Training: Dentists endure rigorous training prior to graduating and being able to practice. Residency programs, unlike in medicine, are optional in dentistry, but offer dentists additional training in routine and more complex procedures. These programs allow for dentists to have a transition time after dental school to “put it all together” and enhance their skill set, and normally translates to better patient experiences and better clinical outcomes. Also, an important aspect of dentistry is staying up-to-date with new information and protocols in order to provide the best care for our patients. This is done through completion of regular continuing education (CE) courses and interaction with other dental colleagues.
-Location: Does the location of the office allow for an easy commute from home or work? Does the office have its own parking lot and is it handicap accessible? Is it easy to find? These are some questions to ask yourself and ask the dental office as you are selecting your dental home.
-Office hours: Are the hours of operation of the practice conducive to your schedule?
-Follow-up care: What is the protocol of the office on following up with a patient’s after complex procedures? Dental offices should have a protocol in place for patients that have issues outside of their normal business hours.
-Emergency care: How are emergency dental visits accommodated? Does that office provide after-hours emergency care? There should be allotted time for dental emergencies to be accommodated within a reasonable time frame during the office’s daily schedule. Also, dental emergencies do not always happen at the most opportune times, and it is important to know how these situations are handled by your dental office.
-Online reviews: Although bad online reviews can sometimes be misleading, there should not be a consistency to the bad reviews and those reviews should be handled in a professional manner. On the flip side, there should be consistency to the good reviews and these should far outweigh the number of bad reviews.
-Word of mouth: When possible, a referral from a close family member or friend can be the best way to find a new dentist/dental office. A quality referral can serve as a reliable method of finding a dental home and can eliminate the stress of doing this on your own. It is important for dental offices to produce consistent and reproducible results in order for patients to feel inclined to recommend their dental office to close family and friends.
4) Office demeanor
-Doctor interaction with staff: The overall tone of communication and work flow should be professional, organized, respectful, positive, and happy. The interaction between coworkers can be a telling sign of how things will be communicated with you, as a patient. Your initial appointment should be confirmation of the due diligence done prior to arriving.
-Staff interaction with patient: Your visit should be well accounted for and respected. Dental and medical offices can sometimes run behind; however, you should be well informed of this and this should not be a trend. The office should take into account the time they have reserved for you and your appointment should feel efficient and organized, not rushed.
-Cleanliness/sterilization: The office should take pride in its cleanliness and should have no reservations about talking with you about their sterilization practices. Take note of these things and decide if this office is the right fit for you.
-Positivity: Were you greeted when you came in? Were you offered to take part in the amenities of the office? The positivity of your dental home should be palpable and infectious. It should be evident that the staff is happy to be there; therefore, so should you.
-New patient gift: This is not a must, but is a great touch as a token of appreciation. After all, you did choose them as your dental home.
-Use of technology to enhance experience: Once treatment is presented and started, there should be use of digital radiographs and pictures to explain procedures and show results. This should enhance your participation in your oral healthcare and facilitate discussions around making improvements to maintain the dental work provided. This should help confirm diagnoses, document findings, and keep you informed.
-Addressing your concerns: Most dental patients have what is called a “Chief Complaint” (CC), which is your reason for scheduling your initial appointment. This should be addressed in the treatment plan developed for your needs and should be prioritized accordingly. Coming into a dental office tends to increase anxiety levels of a large majority. These anxieties should be eased by the team members and practices of your dental home.