How to Choose the Right Dentist For You

Gentle Dental

Portrait of dentist standing with arms crossed in clinic

When deciding on a new dentist, you want to make sure you will be comfortable and well taken care of. Instead of waiting for an emergency, it’s best to have someone you trust, who can perform regular checkups, cleanings and important treatments. Here are some of the key things to consider when choosing a professional for your dental needs.

Location and hours

It’s generally a good idea to choose a local dentist that’s relatively close to your home or office. This will make it much easier for you to make appointments in a way that fits your schedule. It will also allow you to easily arrive for your appointment on time or a bit early if necessary. You should also make sure the dental office will be open on the days and times when you are most likely to need an appointment.


If you have dental insurance, you will want to make sure the dentist accepts your provider. You may want to see if the dentist offers multiple payment options, including checks, credit cards and payment plans. You will also want to get estimates about specific common procedures, including crowns, fillings and root canal therapy.


The dentist’s office should be able to provide information about the dentist’s training. It should also have clear, professional policies on infection control. If the staff seems unable or unwilling to answer your questions, you may want to find another dentist. You can also get details about a dentist’s qualifications from your insurance carrier or the local dental society. State dental boards have websites where patients can make sure a dentist is fully licensed. Most specialty dentist organizations also provide the qualifications of members online.


It’s generally a good idea to meet with a dentist to see if he or she is someone who makes you feel comfortable. During the initial interview, you can ask questions about the dentist’s practices and policies regarding pain and anxiety medications. This may be especially important if you tend to feel nervous or stressed during procedures.

Emergency care

Not all dental issues happen during regular work hours. In turn, it’s a good idea to find out when or if your dentist will be available for emergencies. Ideally, your dentist should not need to refer you to the emergency room. You should be able to contact the dentist or a suitable substitute at any time via pager, cell phone or answering service.

Don’t Be Shy

Most dentists are quite happy to meet with new patients to discuss their policies and qualifications. Don’t be afraid to schedule a short meet-and-greet that will let you get to know the person behind the drill. Be sure to make a list of questions, and take a few moments to express any concerns, whether they relate to past dental experiences or general anxiety.