Nobody looks forward to the work and stress of finding a new health provider, much less finding an office and staff to trust you and your family’s oral health with. Whether you’re searching for the right dentist for advice, or are in the market for a new dentist for the whole family, South Charlotte Dentistry is here to equip you with the right knowledge to find an experienced dentist suited for your needs.
It is easy to get overwhelmed by your search for the right dentist. From Google searches, Yelp reviews, to scouring websites and seeking out word of mouth recommendations, there are many ways in which we try to find a great dentist. If you’ve moved recently or switched insurance companies, it can be difficult to go from a long-time dentist and find another that meets all of your expectations. Though this may seem like just something else to deal with, and it could be tempting to push it on down the list of To-Do’s, we recommend you deal with this right away. But don’t worry, we’re here to help by making your search much easier.
So where should you even start? We have laid out the most important considerations in your search for the right dentist—and don’t worry, we may be a little biased towards our own practice, but at the end of the day, we always want what’s best for you.
What does an effective dental practice look like?
What makes a good dentist? Is it a staff of kind hygienists? A dentist who spends time in the room with the patient? One who offers the cheapest treatment options around? Well, at South Charlotte Dentistry, we think expectations should be met with every point of contact.
Whether you are making your first call to inquire about services, scheduling an appointment, or entering the practice, the staff should always be welcoming to patients. Practices that leave patients in the waiting room without greeting and for long periods of time without explanation are providing you with red flags that the dental practice does not respect clients. A friendly, punctual staff ensures that the visit is great from start to finish.
Here are a few other key factors to an effective practice:
- Active listening
Between the hygienists and the dentist, you need a practice that listens to what you say. As the patient, you are the best advocate and knowledge base of your own health and a good dental practice values that. By listening to your concerns and requests, and acting on what they hear, rather than talking over the patient or not spending and giving the time to the patient to speak their concerns, the patient will collaborate with the dental practice to ensure they are receiving the best treatment options.
- Attempts to know the patient
In a larger practice, we do not expect our dentists to know the patient’s entire history, but no patient wants to feel like another file on the shelf. A dentist taking the time to know you can affect the level of care that the patient gets. Whether that’s making friendly conversation or taking a few minutes to read your chart, attempting to know the patient can make all the difference in your dental care.
What are the warning signs of a bad dentist?
Fraudulent dentists certainly are not the norm, but dishonest practices do exist and have impacted patients in their long-term trust in dentistry and their own oral health. The wrong dentist is more concerned with his pocketbook rather than the overall health of your mouth, meaning he may recommend and perform unnecessary treatments. Procedures that aren’t necessary can wreak havoc on your mouth and lead to further problems down the road.
Signs of Fraudulent Practice:
- If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is:
Some dentists offer very discounted, or even free cleanings as a way to get patients in the door. Once in the chair, they may either hit you with fees that were never mentioned as part of the deal or as mentioned before, pressure you into procedures with intensity.
- Urgency without explanation:
If your dentist identifies an issue that is not a dental emergency and tells you a procedure needs to be done immediately, you should start by asking why and for full disclosure on the procedure itself. If you are in a new dentist’s chair for a regular cleaning and suddenly you’re bombarded with procedures of a type you’ve never needed before, or that you did not enter the practice asking for help with, then it may be a red flag. When the dentist is vague on the reasoning for procedures, he may be pressuring you into going forward without understanding all of your options.
- Lack of Patient Education:
As we mentioned before, the sign of a great dentist is one who educates patients and ensures that decisions are made collectively between the patient and dentist. It is not good practice when dentists and hygienists are not willing to take time and explain the dental issues and recommended procedures to the patient. Even the act of not showing patients their x-rays can be a red flag. Your dentist should take the time to discuss what is shown in your x-rays, point out any lesions or unhealthy teeth, and talk through the treatment plan with the findings.
If a practice becomes susceptible to fraud, how can I determine if I am part of fraudulent activity?
It takes years of hard work and building trust among patients to make a successful dental practice. But, as in any profession, there are a small number of professionals out there who turn to taking shortcuts for financial gain. For the medical profession in general, medical diagnoses can be subjective. Because of this, we have a number of suggestions to improve patient advocacy.
Know the ins and outs of how your dental insurance works
Besides having a sense of your general dental coverage, you may not know how dental practices interact before and after your visit. After scheduling your appointment, the staff at the dental practice will reach out to your dental insurance company to find out everything that is covered under your provider. So before you even enter the office, the dentist will know everything that can be billed to you during your dental visit. Unfortunately, this can leave the patient vulnerable to receiving treatments that are more likely to be reimbursed by the insurance company, rather than what’s truly right for the teeth.
Here’s an example: a dentist may be choosing between a filling and a root canal for a patient. Taking the path with the root canal and crown is more lucrative for the dental practice. This is because it is common knowledge that root canals are easier to pass through an insurance company than a filling, and by receiving a root canal, you’re automatically approved for a crown. Root canals are easier to pass simply because the dentist can justify the root canal by claiming that the patient was in pain. The problem here is that the dentist may have just been able to perform a filling, which is a cheaper procedure and less invasive for the patient.
Obviously, it’s best to avoid these types of situations altogether. Here are a few tips to keep you out of trouble:
- Consider breaking away from the chain: Chain-dentistry practices drive patients through the door with heavy advertising and discounts, quick cleanings, free exams, and of course, hundreds or thousands of dollars in unnecessary dental work. Corporate dental chains can run on a quota-based model that can sometimes lead to practices working on the side of pushing unnecessary treatments.
- Use referrals when choosing your next dentist: Your insurance company may be telling you which dentists to see, but take time to do your own research. Seek out others with the same insurance and ask for a recommendation. Or, if you have a current dentist in the same area but you have switched insurance policies, ask your dentist for a recommendation, or ask for a recommendation from a local dentist society or health professional. Just because the insurance company covers a dentist does not make it a suitable referral. Plus, seeking out opinions from family, friends, and co-workers can give recommendations backed by real experiences.
- Ask for the appointment time: Generally, a new patient appointment should take around an hour and a half. If the office tells you that appointment should only last about a half hour, they may be trying to rush you through what should be a thorough cleaning and appointment, rather than give you the time you deserve as a patient. If you’re an established patient, appointment time can vary, but a cleaning should take at least 45 minutes. If it lasts only 15 minutes, it’s time to start asking questions.
- Always check your bill before you leave the office: In a true dental scam, a dentist might inflate claims or bill insurers for procedures that the patient didn’t receive. The best way to avoid this from happening is to ensure communication with your dentist, ask for an estimated price upfront (prior to sitting in the dental chair), and always checking your bill at checkout. According to the National Health Care Anti-Fraud Association, it is estimated that Americans lose about $68 billion dollars each year to healthcare fraud. Don’t be a victim of dental fraud; know the signs and do not be afraid to advocate for yourself as a patient.
- Check the market rate for common procedures: There are common procedures you have had before that you know the price for, but when dental pain strikes, sometimes you are willing to pay anything for it to get fixed. It’s at these times when it is most important to ensure that you are being offered a fair, market-rate price, and not just being offered the most expensive procedure that your insurance may or may not cover.
- Get other opinions: If you have ever had a major dental procedure, it is likely that you might have sought out another opinion. One dentist may recommend that you need it, while another may not. This is totally normal, and encouraged, especially if you feel that any of the signs above are occurring.
- Gauge the culture of the office: While how you feel as a patient is important, seeing how the dentist treats the staff can also impact the care you receive. The best doctors are attentive to patients and staff. If you have a bad feeling with your interaction from the front desk to the dental chair, how can you trust your oral health to the practice? You should feel safe and welcome at the dentist from the moment you walk in the door.
Find a dental provider who’s right for you and your family
South Charlotte Dentistry is here to make you feel right at home, whether you’re new to the area or a longtime resident. Give us a call today and let’s see if we are the right fit for you.