NoBull Know Before You Go

Helping you ask the right questions before you visit the dentist.

Selecting the right dentist and dental office can have significant short and long-term health and financial consequences. NoBull has compiled a list of important items to consider prior to filling out your new patient paperwork.

If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed about this decision then check out our NoBull Dentist Search and we will take the stress out of selecting the right dentist by recommending dentists for you based on your preferences.

Selecting a dentist is a very personal decision.

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Questions to consider when shopping around for a new dentist:

What post-graduate dental institutions has the dentist been involved with and to what extent?

There are at least six major institutions that provide post-graduation education and advanced curriculums to dentists. Dentists who have committed a significant amount of time and money to these higher education institutions are likely more committed to their profession and may provide a higher standard of care.

Should I send my most recent dental photos and X-rays to my new dentist?

Absolutely. You should send your most recent set of photos and X-rays. If you have additional sets send those over, as well. These photos and X-rays are very useful and provide your dentist with a visual history of your teeth.

Does the dentist have intra-oral photography?

Intra-oral photography comes in handy so your dentist can refer back to photos if any changes in your teeth are noted. Without images, there is no reference point for things such as wear, recession, decay, the status of root canals, third molars, etc.

Does the dentist own the office?

Dentists who own their offices tend to be more invested in their patients and the office. They have put roots down in their community and tend to take their reputation seriously.

Does the dentist have FAGD/MAGD/ or AACD status? If not, why?

These dentists are among the top 1-6% of general dentists in terms of formal postgraduate accomplishment. These dentists have high numbers of Continuing Education hours and have passed rigorous standards that differentiates them from those who have not. They set themselves apart from others because of their commitment to their profession.

Is the dentist a military veteran?

Dental medicine and military training often come with medical experience that is difficult to replicate in private practice. Similar to other fields, military training and experience represent not only a commitment to the country, but also a higher standard.

Is the dentist participating in any continuing education programs?

Most dentists are required to acquire 15-20 hours of continuing education every year by the state they practice in. The exact number of continuing education (CE) hours differs from state to state, but the requirement is designed to be the minimum, in order to keep dentists up-to-date on current practices, guidelines, techniques, procedures, etc.

Some dentists do the bare minimum, while others truly invest themselves in their career and the profession.

Did the dentist complete a residency program?

Participating in a dental residency program is not a requirement in most states in order to be a practicing dentist. However, dentists who complete a residency program prior to entering private practice have more breadth and depth experience than those who do not.

Like all institutions, residencies and dental schools vary in caliber. The more challenging the residency, the more prepared and efficient the dentist may be for private practice.

How long has the dentist been practicing?

We’re stating the obvious here, but younger dentists are, by definition, less experienced and have performed fewer procedural repetitions. However, some younger dentists may be armed with more current information, technology, and techniques from their formal schooling. A younger dentist’s hand-eye coordination and acuity may be superior to an older dentist.

On the contrary, more experienced dentists usually have more procedural repetitions and often have a wider experience base (even better if they stay current with continuing education). Like athletes, physical skills and acuity may deteriorate over time.

Where did the dentist go to school?

Not all dental schools are created equal. Like most institutions of higher education, in general, the better the school, the harder it is to gain acceptance. Keep in mind, that a great dentist can come from a lower-ranked school and a poor dentist can come from a top-ranked school.

Is the dentist available after hours by phone or email?

If you encounter a dental emergency you want to know that your dentist can be reached via phone or email. A dentist that isn’t accessible after business hours may not be the best fit for you.

Is the dentist’s office up to date on the latest technology?

Dentists who invest in technology also invest their time and money in an effort to provide better care. While dentists who lack technology can still provide excellent care, technology itself can serve as a proxy for currency and care differentiation.

For specialty procedures, does the dentist generally refer to a specialist? If not, why?

The answer to this question can help determine whether or not your dentist is attempting to be a “jack of all trades” by handling all procedures and not providing referrals to specialists. This can indicate a lower standard.

If the dentist is performing specialty procedures it’s a good idea to ask about how many they’ve performed and how often they’re performed.