Top Tips for Choosing a Dentist

Hate going to the dentist?

You’re not alone.

A recent Gallup poll reports that only one in three adults visited the dentist in the last year. Additionally, according to the CDC, 31.6% of adults live with untreated dental caries.

Maybe you didn’t go due to lack of time, cost, or maybe because going to the dentist makes you anxious.

But now you’re ready. You’re finally ready to choose a dentist.

Now what?

Choosing a dentist can be daunting, but luckily we’re here to help.

Use these expert tips to help you choose the perfect dentist for you.

1. Logistics


Dentist office location is one of the top reasons adults don’t go to the dentist. Consider the proximity of the dental office and how it fits into your schedule and lifestyle when choosing a dentist. Choose a dental office with a location that’s convenient for you – whether it be close to home, work, etc.


It seems obvious, but another major reason adults don’t go to the dentist is because they can’t find the time. Choose a dental office with open hours that align with your schedule and are convenient for you.

2. Cost

59% of adults don’t go to the dentist due to cost. Don’t ignore that tooth ache because you don’t think you can afford dental care!

Choose a dentist that accepts your insurance and/or offers multiple payment options (e.g. credit cards, payment plans) that work with your budget. If you’re not sure what dental practices accept your insurance, call or check your dental insurance website to find accepted vendors near you.

As costs vary from practice to practice, also try to get estimates of what your dentist might charge for common procedures like: crowns, root canals, or fillings. Also keep in mind that even if you have dental insurance, you may be paying part of the costs yourself.

3. Reputation

Choose a dentist with a good reputation.

There are several ways to research prospective dentists. One of the easiest things to do is search for reviews online for reviews by previous or current patients.

According to a study completed in 2015, dental patients place a higher value on personal recommendations from a known and trusted person versus information received from other sources. Ask your friends, family members, or coworkers for recommendations on dentists in your area.

If you’re stuck on what to ask about specifically, here are some ideas:

  • How difficult is it to make an appointment?
  • How much time do you usually spend in the waiting room?
  • How are your interactions with the staff/with the dentist?
  • How satisfied are you with their work?
  • How does the office communicate with you about appointments, reminders, paperwork, etc.?

Use your friends, family, or coworkers as resources for choosing the right dentist.

4. Competence

This should go without saying, but choose a dentist with licensure that is up to date and degrees from an accredited school. Based on a study in Japan, patient satisfaction was highly correlated with the technical competence of the dentist.

The dentist’s office or his/her website should tell you about the dentist’s training. If the staff seems uncomfortable or unsure about providing this information, or you aren’t comfortable with their responses, consider choosing a different dentist.

Choose a dentist with training and experience in the areas you need support in (e.g. cosmetic dentistry, periodontics, root canals, etc).

5. Accountability

Most state dental boards have a website where you can verify if your dentist is licensed and whether his/her license is up to date. You can also check for the history of claims, if any, against your prospective dentist.

6. Specialization

When choosing a dentist, look for what types of services they offer and whether they specialize in any areas. You want to choose a dentist that regularly practices or specializes in the areas that you require support.

For example, if you experience anxiety when going to the dentist, find a practitioner that offers anxiety reduction treatment approaches.

7. Interview

Don’t hesitate to call or visit prospective dentists before making your final decision to ensure that they’re the right fit for you. Before making an appointment, schedule time to meet with the dentist and staff for a consultation. Bring your dental records and a list of questions to ask the dentist. This would also be a good time to assess the conditions and cleanliness of the clinic.

If you’re unable to visit in person, try a phone interview. Check their website for pictures or a virtual office tour to get an idea of the clinic’s conditions.

If you’re stuck on what questions to ask, here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Where did the dentist graduate from?
  • How long have they been practicing?
  • What type of dentistry do they specialize in?

Consider this an opportunity to get to know the dentist better and figure out whether the dental office would be a good fit for you.

8. Personal Comfort

Choose a dental office where you feel comfortable. Find a dentist with whom you feel comfortable asking questions or explaining symptoms. Does the dentist seem to listen and understand your concerns?

Would you feel comfortable asking him for pain medicine, expressing your concerns, or asking questions about preventative or post-procedural care?

9. The Right Fit

Aside from all the other tips above, when choosing a dentist, make sure that it is a good fit for you, your needs, and your lifestyle. You may be interested in a larger practice with a high volume or patients as your time is limited and your priority is getting in and out.

Or you might be interested in a family-centered practice that employs a more personalized feel where the dentist spends more time with each patient. Whatever your preferences, choose a dental office that is the right fit for you.

Choosing a Dentist

Now that you have all of the tools you need to choose a dentist, take the time to research and make the right decision.

If you’re in Birmingham, Alabama, you’re in luck.

At Doug Lewis Dentistry, we offer a range of cosmetic and general dentistry services at a family practice that melds the best of southern hospitality with cutting-edge technology. Our dedication to maintaining that individualized attention and family feel keeps patients coming back generation after generation.

Learn more about us here.