Monday, November 5, 2012

Choosing A Dentist

I have friends and family all over the world. Unfortunately, I can't be everyone's dentist. They often ask me what dentist they should see or how to go about selecting one.'s not that simple.

There are many things to consider. It depends on what your perceived needs are.

Everyone wants a competent dentist. In the United States, all dentists have either a DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery) or DMD (Doctor of Dental Medicine) degree. Four years of dental school are required along with passing national and regional boards. In addition, the vast majority of dentist have earned a BS (Bachelor of Science) degree prior to entering dental school. After completeion of dental school, many will complete a 1-2 year residency. Some may specialize and obtain another 2-6 years of formal training. After all formal training is completed, continuing education throughout a dentist's career is required to maintain their licenses and credentials. Therfore, all dentists have a basic level of competency.

However, not all dentists are alike. Some are continuing education junkies, like myself. We seek continuing education that far surpasses the minimum requirements to constantly keep abreast of the literature, enhance our skills, build new skills and incorporate the latest technologies.

So how do you select a dentist? Good question. Tough question. It's very difficult to assess a dentist's skills. The way the public assesses skills is based on how they relate to the dentist and not necessarily the dentist's skills. If they like the dentist, then they will judge him/her to be a good dentist. If they don't like the dentist, they will judge him/her to be a bad dentist.

Do you therefore assess them on how busy their practice is? No, for a number of reasons. They may value quality more than quantity not much different from how Nordstrom's does business as compared to Wal-Mart. Which one is right for you? Well, it depends on your needs and desires. If I want just plain T-shirts, I'll go to Wal-Mart. If I want a nice suit, I'll go to Nordstrom's.

When I was in the Navy, we would all see each other's work. We can often determine whether one dentist does great work or not. However, we couldn't base this assessment from evaluating one patient. Even then, there are too many variables beyond the dentist's control. The patient may have presented with some unkown challenges.

Do you assess based on the decor of the office? No. It's impossible to assess skills this way.

Do you assess based on their marketing media? No again.

How about their online reviews? No again.

So, we still haven't answered the question on how to select a dentist. Here is my attempt to finally answer the question. First determine what is important to you and what your goals are. If you want implants for example, then you want someone that has plenty of experience placing implants. If you want to look fabulous and cosmetics is your greatest consideration, then seek a dentist that has plenty of experience in cosmetics. If cost is the predominant consideration, then by all means, find the cheapest place you can. Ask some of your friends that are happy with their current dentist. Find out as much as you can about the dentists you are considering and find the one that best suits your needs. If you feel the dentist you have selected doesn't meet your needs, it's no big deal........simply select another one. You want a professional you can trust. Don't select a dentist on the basis of cost or advertisements alone. Consider all the variables and determine which are most important to you. Many dental offices offer free consultations. Don't be afraid to use that free service to your advantage to screen potential dentists. 

Dr. Cisneros maintains a practice in Freeburg and Columbia, IL. Both are in the Greater St Louis, MO area. For more information on a wide variety of subjects, please visit

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