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What to Look for in a General Dentist

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Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

The ideal dentist is a partner in you and your family's oral health. They will be tracking your family history, ensuring you get regular checkups, professional cleanings, and taking care of dental emergencies that crop up when you least expect them. Ready to find your next dentist? Make sure they fulfill the following requirements to put you at ease.

What Does a General Dentist Do?

A general dentist knows your patient history, educates you on daily hygiene, and can provide the most common dental services in-office. Your general dentist should also be concerned with patient education and healthy habits to ensure checkups go smoothly in the future. Dentists who specialize in general care can offer standard and select restorative services – such as crowns, bridges, or dentures – along with emergency procedures and cavity care as needed.

What Does a Specialty Dentist Do?

There are times when your general dentist should refer you to a specialist for procedures that cannot be done in-office. Specialty dentists focus on dental issues beyond standard care and receive additional training on specialties above and beyond their general dentistry degree. Specialists are necessary when you encounter problems that a general dentist can't address, like those due to heredity, overall health issues, or an accident.

Suppose your child is incredibly nervous about dentist appointments, for instance. In that case, your dentist may direct you to a pediatric dentist who practices sedation dentistry or takes an approach that is better suited for younger patients. Suppose your teeth are damaged and you need extensive cosmetic work. In that case, your general dentist could refer you to a cosmetic dentist for more in-depth treatment. A qualified general dentist knows when to refer patients and when to treat them personally.

How to Choose a Dentist

You know what makes a good general dentist, but that's only half the battle. A little research can go a long way when finding a dentist that puts you at ease and makes you feel in control of your oral health. Consider these tips for finding a general dentist that's the right fit:

  • Ask friends and family. Referrals are an excellent way to find a dentist that patients love. Your friends and family can give you an accurate idea of different dentists in the area, including their strengths and weaknesses.
  • Check their credentials. Make sure any dentist you consider is a member of the American Dental Association, which holds its members to five ethical standards of patient care, including an up-to-date skillset.
  • Schedule a consultation. Because it's impossible to evaluate a dentist without meeting them, book this new patient appointment, which many dentists offer for free or at a discount for new patients. Get to know the dentist, ask questions about fluoride use, and how they handle emergency procedures.

New Dentist Checklist

Schedule a necessary appointment with your new dentist so you can verify that you've made the right choice. Routine cleaning is a great place to start: You can see how the staff performs and talk to your new dentist as a patient. Some things to look for in a dentist include:

  • The cleanliness of the office.
  • The chair-side manner of the dentist and the staff.
  • Level of comfort.
  • Your conversations with the dentist. Do the dentist and staff listen to your concerns and value you as a patient?
  • The level of advice you're given. Does your dentist or dental hygienist suggest a healthy oral hygiene routine, like brushing twice daily with a toothpaste.

Choosing a dentist shouldn't be done lightly because you're choosing a partner for your health – potentially for years to come. So, while you're boxing up your priceless heirlooms and making sure you've cleaned out your old home, don't forget that one of the most valuable moving tips is to take some time to find, research and evaluate a new dentist. Doing so can make your new location feel a little more like home.

Oral Care Center articles are reviewed by an oral health medical professional. This information is for educational purposes only. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist, physician or other qualified healthcare provider. 

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