Many people would just as soon avoid scheduling a dental appointment unless an unbearable toothache lands them reluctantly in the dentist’s chair.
Fear of pain is one reason for procrastination, but it’s not the only factor. People worry a routine checkup could reveal the need for expensive, major work. Wary patients also sometimes harbor doubts about whether a costly procedure is even necessary.
But patients can put themselves at ease and get the most out of their dental visit by fully vetting their dentist and learning how to weigh options, says Rick Mars, DDS, (www.dentalcaregroup.net), author of “The Big Smile: The Principles of Modern Dentistry — for Dentists and Patients.” Mars has practiced in the Miami, Florida area for more than 25 years.
“Many dentists don’t do a good job of educating their patients and communicating with them,” Mars says, “and most patients don’t do a good enough job educating themselves. We have a saying in dentistry that if you put 10 dentists in a room with a single patient, they will come up with 10 different treatment plans.
“But the great thing about dentistry is the multitude of creative solutions available to patients. You need to ask the right questions to make sure you understand the treatment options.”
Mars offers these tips for finding the right dental treatment at a fair price:
Educate yourself and listen when your dentist educates. “The worst thing that can happen is that you don’t get the treatment you need and something disastrous happens,” Mars says. “The second worst thing that can happen is that you do get treatment, but you didn’t actually need it. Taking an active role means you not only do your own research and get a second opinion, but you also listen carefully to your doctor when your doctor educates you.”
Read online reviews with a critical eye. “The internet can be very helpful when you’re vetting a new dentist, but there’s also a lot of misinformation out there with patients’ reviews,” Mars says. “In today’s world, patients wield power like they never previously had. In general, people who bother to write reviews are disgruntled and want recourse and even revenge. On the other hand, numerous positive reviews, ideally from people you know who were treated by that dentist, can add up to a trustworthy referral.”
Interview your dentist and their team. “You can ask them how many times they’ve done a certain procedure and even ask to see photos of their cases,” Mars says. “It may require a specialist rather than a general dentist. And find out why they charge what they charge.”
Get an honest second opinion. “Even though you trust your dentist, you might hear a treatment plan that just doesn’t sit well with you,” Mars says. “Get a copy of your radiographs from your current dentist to take to your second-opinion dentist. Never show the second dentist your treatment plan until they give their final suggestions.”
Ask to see the results of your dental investment. “Rather than limit your evaluation of your dentist to time, cost, or customer service, think about your dental work like you consider mechanical work to your car,” Mars says. “After treatment, dentists can and should show you radiographs of your teeth and point out the details proving your problem is fixed.
“If you’ve done your homework,” Mars says, “your dentist, whether a general practitioner or a specialist, should leave no room for doubt that you’re in the right place.”