By Karen Keller
Dental dilemmas aren’t usually the stuff of existential crises—that is, until you feel a shooting pain from a tooth or gum area and think you're going to die…and then you remember that the family dentist is back with
, well, the family.
To avoid dental emergencies and to get that yearly cleaning that you agree to every three years, you need a good dentist nearby. Here’s how to find one.
Get a Decent Referral
1) Ask for referrals from coworkers, family, friends, or neighbors. Be sure to ask these questions:
2) Ask a local periodontist (they do gums, not teeth) or a local dental lab (“fixed prostheses”/ones who make crowns/bridges) owner who their personal dentist is. Ask them to give you a couple alternatives, too. Then call other periodontists/lab owners and see which dentists get the most hits. Use the yellow pages or Google to find them. No need to act sketchy—just say you're new in the area, and you’re looking to find a decent dentist.
3) Try calling a dentist and asking flat out which dental lab they use. Then call that lab and ask the owner if the dentist’s work is up to snuff.
Vet the Referred Dentist
Avoid malpractice. Call the state board of consumer affairs and ask if there are any records of actions against the dentist. Has the dentist’s license ever been revoked or suspended? Google a dentist’s name and see what comes up. If lawsuits surface, it’s probably not a good sign.
Be skeptical of the referral source. Think twice about asking an old dentist for a referral. He’ll probably just give you the number of his golf buddy.
Also check out dentist ratings at Dr. Oogle by searching a specific dentist’s name. Or plug in a zip code to see referrals on Find a Dentist .
As a last resort, check out the zip code search for dentists at the American Dentistry Association or Dentists.com .
Grill the Potential Dentist
The following questions asked to a dentist or their receptionist may help decide who is worthy of holding a drill two inches from your face:
Dentists these days sometimes “over-treat” to make more money, just like a mechanic says you need to replace the brake pads when they’re in fine working condition.
Get a second opinion if: