Busy parents know scheduling appointments for everyone in your family can take time. Finding a family dental group can mean fewer individual office visits, if you know where to look.
Although family dental groups have been around for years, they are unique in that they provide a variety of treatments in-house, whereas many practices are built around a specialty. General dentists can treat your whole family and are considered your primary care dentist.
General dentists often do have training in many specialised areas, like orthodontics, root canal therapy and even cosmetic dentistry. What makes family dental groups appealing is how they offer more than one specialised dentist in their practice, providing the convenience of a "one-stop" solution for all your family's dental care needs. Whether you need a paediatric dentist (someone who specialises in treating children's teeth) or an endodontist (who treats the pulp and root), you can find family dentists who provide what you need at one office.
It's also more likely that you can schedule appointments for multiple family members at the same time. Although this is largely up to how individual practices schedule their patients, it's a good idea to ask upfront when searching for a family dental group. This means less time waiting for back-to-back appointments or appointments on multiple days.
When it comes to providing the most efficient technology and facilities, there's little difference between a family dentist and a general dentist. It's really a matter of research. Be sure to ask about the procedures and equipment the office uses when considering it as your family dentist.
Today, many dental groups prefer to offer advanced technology. Digital X-rays, which use much less radiation, which are safer than traditional X-ray machines. Dentists can also perform intraoral camera exams, whereby they can magnify problem areas on a monitor using a small camera. These are just some of the services you can find across all specialities.
On the whole, advanced technology is less invasive, making an office visit more manageable for kids and patients who feel uneasy going to the dentist. When considering a family dental group, check with your medical aid and research treatment plans ahead of time; coverage amounts can vary with advanced technology.
Many dental practices advertise treatment for the whole family, but you'll need to find out whether they're a general practice or a family group. Others use "family" in their practice title, but it doesn't necessarily make them family dental groups. A quick search online is a great start, but it's better to work with organisations like the South African Dental Association (SADA) to help you find one. These organisations can narrow your search by name, city, suburb and speciality.
Here are the best steps to take when looking for a family dental group:
Consider the needs of your family. Will one member need braces while another needs a basic cleaning? Look for a group that has both a general dentist and an orthodontist on site.
Find out whether the group has a paediatric dentist on site. Some family groups treat all members, but don't necessarily cater their approach to children. These dentists won't require you to switch to a new dentist when your child gets older, and the practice will already be familiar with his or her medical history.
Work with SADA and similar associations that help you find a family dental group according to your specific needs.
As always, however, keep up your family's great oral care when not at the dentist. Brush twice a day, floss daily and use mouthwashes to help protect your family against mouth germs.