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Finding a Dentist

How do I find a dentist?

The American Dental Association (ADA) offers these suggestions:

  • Ask family, friends, neighbors, or co-workers for their recommendations.
  • Ask your family doctor or local pharmacist.
  • If you're moving, your current dentist might be able to make a recommendation.
  • Call or write your local or state dental society. Your local and state dental societies also might be listed in the telephone directory under "dentists" or "associations." The ADA provides a list of local and state dental societies on their website.

A few other online dentist directories you might try include:

  • DDS4U Dentist Directory (
  • American’s Finest Dentist Directory (
  • (
  • Dentist Directory (

The ADA suggests calling or visiting more than one dentist before selecting one with whom you believe you can develop a good long-term relationship.

What should I look for when choosing a dentist?

You and your dentist will be long-term oral health care partners; therefore, you need to find someone with whom you can be comfortable. To find a suitable dentist to meet your needs, consider asking the following questions as a starting point:

  • What are the office hours? Are they convenient to meet your schedule?
  • Is the office easy to get to from work or home?
  • Where was the dentist educated and trained?
  • What’s the dentist’s approach to preventive dentistry?
  • How often does the dentist attend conferences and continuing education workshops?
  • What type of anesthesia is the dentist certified to administer to help you relax and feel more comfortable during any necessary dental treatment?
  • What arrangements are made for handling emergencies outside of office hours? (Most dentists make arrangements with a colleague or emergency referral service if they are unable to tend to emergencies.)
  • Is information provided about all fees and payment plans before treatment is scheduled? (If you are comparison shopping, ask for estimates on some common procedures such as full-mouth X-rays, oral exam and cleaning, and filling a cavity.)
  • Does the dentist participate in your dental health plan?
  • What is the dentist’s office policy on missed appointments?

If visiting on site:

  • Does the office appear to be clean, neat, and orderly? Do all surfaces and equipment in the treatment room appear clean?
  • Is the dental staff helpful and willing to answer your questions?
  • Do you observe the dentist and staff wearing gloves and other protective gear during actual patient treatment?

Where can people with special needs obtain dental care?

The ADA Council on Access, Prevention, and Interprofessional Relations suggests the following tips:

  • Inform the dentist about your special health or financial conditions.
  • Ask if the dentist has training and/or experience in treating patients with your specific condition.
  • Ask if the dentist has an interest in treating patients with your specific condition.  
  • Find out if the dentist participates in your dental benefit plan (dental insurance program).
  • Ask if the dental facility is accessible to the disabled.

In addition, the Council suggests that patients with special needs

  • Call or write to the dental director at your state department of public health. The ADA’s website provides information.
  • Contact the nearest dental school clinic or hospital dental department, especially if it is affiliated with a major university.
  • Contact the Special Care Dentistry ( (Formerly Federation of Special Care Organizations in Dentistry).
  • Contact the National Foundation of Dentistry for the Handicapped (NFDH), a charitable affiliate of the American Dental Association. This organization assists in providing comprehensive dental care for needy, disabled, elderly, and medically compromised individuals.

A listing of other useful dental specialty organizations and some other general sites are provided in the document, "Dental Resources."

How can I find out about charitable or low-cost dental care for people in need?

  • Because assistance programs vary from state to state, contact your state dental society to find out if there are programs in your area.
  • Dental school clinics are another source of lower-cost dental care. A list of dental school clinics is provided by the ADA. Generally, dental costs in school clinics are reduced and might include only partial payment for professional services covering the cost of materials and equipment. Your state dental society can tell you if there is a dental school clinic in your area.

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Can't find the health information you’re looking for?

This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 2/23/2009...#11191