How Do I Choose a Dentist?

Steps for Finding your Forever Dentist

When you are looking for a new dentist, you are searching for more than just someone to clean your teeth. A dentist is an important partner in your health, but when choosing one there is a lot more to consider than just credentials. You will need a provider you can trust, and one with whom you feel comfortable. Here we outline some of the steps you can take when selecting a new dentist.

The key to good oral health is regular visits, so start by considering what will work best for your lifestyle and dental care needs. When choosing a dentist, you are also choosing your “dental home.” According to Dr. Cathy Taylor-Osborne, an ADA dentist and director of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s Bureau of Oral Health, “Your dental health is such a vital part of your overall health, so it’s important for every patient to have a dental home… That means there is always someone looking out for the best interest of you and your family.” Having a dental home allows you to feel comfortable when you’re dropping in for a regular visit and gives you a safe and trusted place to turn for a procedure or dental emergency.

To begin the search for your new dental home, first consider the basics:

  • Credentials- Is the dentist a member of the ADA?
  • Location– Is the office easy to get to from your home or job? 
  • Convenience– Do the office hours work for your schedule? 
  • Coverage- If you have dental benefits, is this dentist in your network?
  • Special Services- Do you need translation or interpreter services? Do you need an office that is wheelchair- accessible?

Once you are ready to launch your search, where do you look? An office in your neighborhood might catch your attention, or you may get a flyer in your mailbox or see an ad in the newspaper. Here are some other places you can look to find a great referral:

  • The American Dental Association’s Find-A-Dentist tool– Here you can search by name, location and specialty.
  • Your local dental society– Ask if they can provide you a list of dentist’s names in your area.
  • A trusted friend or relative– If your best friend says she loves her dentist, check them out!
  • The local health department or nearby dental schools– If you don’t have benefits or have trouble affording dental services, your local health department or nearby dental schools may be able to connect you with free- or low-cost dental services.

Finding the right dentist takes time, and once you narrow down your search it is a good idea to do a “Meet and Greet.” There’s no reason to be shy about calling or visiting the dentists on your list before making your decision. Dr. Taylor-Osborne of the ADA says, “Schedule consultation time with the dentist to meet with the dentist and staff before making an appointment. Make a list of questions and bring your records so the dentist can take a look at your dental history if you want to ask something more specific.” Be sure to share past dental experiences or dental concerns, including any anxiety, so that the dentist understands your concerns and any specific needs you may have. 

By visiting the office you will also be able to see if the office is welcoming, comfortable and neat. Here are some topics you may want to ask about:

  • Communication- Will the dentist take the time to answer your questions and offer thorough explanations? Is dental health instruction provided? Will the dentist explain ways to help you prevent dental health problems? 
  • Emergency Services– How does the dentist and office staff handle emergencies outside of office hours?
  • Payments and Insurance- Is the office staff familiar with your benefit plan? Does the office offer payments plans or financial options for treatment costs? 
  • Patient Care and Records– Will your medical and dental history be recorded and placed in a permanent file? 

As you narrow down your search it will become easier to identify your particular needs in a dental provider. Above all, you are searching for a dentist who will be a part of your total health care team. Dr. Taylor-Osborne advises you to “Look for someone who can be a coach to motivate you, a trusted advisor to turn to when health issues arise and a partner to make dental care decisions with.” Choosing a dentist might be feel like a task, but you will be rewarded when you find your forever dentist and your dental home. At La Mesa Hills Dentistry, Dr. Paul Fjeldsted has made it his mission to provide the community with high quality, affordable dental treatment in a friendly, comfortable environment. 

At La Mesa Hills Dentistry, patients are treated like family. Current patients value Dr. Fjeldsted’s gentle manner and professional approach, and the office’s clean, comfortable, peaceful environment. Call 619-469-2902 or visit to learn more about the general and cosmetic dentistry services offered. Ready to smile again? Book an appointment today!