Q: After 30 years of having me as a patient, my old dentist is ready to retire. He's been reliable and done great work, but now I have to find a new dentist.
I've heard horror stories from other people about bad experiences with dentists, but I have never had a problem myself. Now that I'm facing change, I don't know if I'll continue to have such good luck.
How can I avoid being taken advantage of?
A: For many people, going to the dentist is more intimidating than any other health-related appointment. It involves uncertainty, vulnerability and subjective judgments -- all of which can result in dramatic interventions.
In the U.S., there is an additional layer. Solo dentistry practitioners have a surprising lack of oversight, and dental fraud is very hard to protect against.
Although finding a good dentist can be difficult, there are ways to protect yourself. Even if there are some unscrupulous figures, you should be able to find one you can trust.
Be wary of dentists you find through advertisements and deals.
Dentists with large advertising budgets generally have to balance their costs through aggressive revenue strategies, using promotions to get you in the door and then diagnosing expensive dental procedures. Many such operations are part of larger chains that are less focused on quality dentistry than their bottom line.
Assess your new dentist based on your previous baseline.
Unless you're seeking out a new dentist due to specific tooth pain or an obvious problem, your oral health is probably similar to your past results. If your first dental visit to a new place comes with dire news, you should use your common sense. Is what they're saying in line with what you'd expect?