How to Select a Dentist

To maintain a healthy smile and prevent future oral disease, it is recommended that you have regular dental visits, based on a determination of your clinical needs by your dentist. That can be a lot of time committed to one health provider. It also means you should spend some time looking for a dentist who's right for you and your family.

Here are some suggestions from the American Dental Association on sources that can help in selecting a dentist:

  • Visit ADA Find-a-Dentist (at MouthHealthy.org) to search for dentists in your area.
  • Ask family, friends, neighbors or co-workers for recommendations.
  • Ask your family physician or local pharmacist.
  • If you're moving, your current dentist may be able to make a recommendation.
  • Call or write your state dental society.

What should you look for when choosing a dentist?

You may want to call or visit more than one dentist before making your decision. Dental care is a very personalized service that requires a good relationship between the dentist and the patient. During your first visit, you should be able to determine if this is the right dentist for you.

Consider the following:

  • Is the appointment schedule convenient for you?
  • Is the office easy to get to from your home or job?
  • Does the office appear to be clean, neat and orderly?
  • Was your medical and dental history recorded and placed in a permanent file?
  • Does the dentist explain techniques that will help you prevent dental health problems? Is dental health instruction provided?
  • Are special arrangements made for handling emergencies outside of office hours? (Most dentists make arrangements with a colleague or emergency referral service if they are unable to tend to emergencies.)
  • Is information provided about fees and payment plans before treatment is scheduled?
  • Is your dentist a member of the ADA? All ADA member dentists voluntarily agree to abide by the high ethical standards reflected in the member code of conduct. You and your dentist are partners in maintaining your oral health. Take time to ask questions and take notes if that will help you remember your dentist's advice.

What is the difference between a DDS and a DMD?

Dentists in the United States will have the letters "DDS" or "DMD" after their name. What's the difference? They mean the same thing—that your dentist graduated from an accredited dental school. The DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery) and DMD (Doctor of Dental Medicine) are the same degrees. Dentists who have a DMD or DDS have the same education. The level of education and clinical training required to earn a dental degree, and the high academic standards of dental schools are on par with those of medical schools. Upon completion of their training, dentists must pass both a rigorous national written exam and a state or regional clinical licensing exam in order to practice. In order to keep their licenses, they must meet continuing education requirements for the remainder of their careers so that they may stay up to date on the latest scientific and clinical developments.

For more information about dental care, visit MouthHealthy.org.

© American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.