How do I find a dentist?

The American Dental Association (ADA) offers these suggestions:

  • Ask your family, friends, neighbors, and work colleagues for their recommendations.
  • Ask your family doctor, local pharmacist, or other healthcare professionals you see.
  • Visit the websites of national dental organizations, such as the ADA and the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD) (see resources at end of article for web addresses). The ADA is the nation's largest dental association, representing 157,000 dentist members. The AGD is the second largest dental organization with more than 38,000 general dentists. Members of these reputable professional organizations abide by high ethical standards and can stay up to date with advancements in dentistry.
  • Contact state and local dental societies. The ADA has contact information on their website. This website and the AGD website are also good sources for finding dentists if you are moving to a different city or state. In addition, ask your current dentist if he/she has a recommendation.

What should I look for when choosing a dentist?

Some questions to ask include:

  • What are the office hours? Are the hours and office location convenient?
  • What dental services are offered? Beyond preventive dental services (such as dental exam, teeth cleaning, x-rays, fluoride treatments), what other basic and major dental services are provided? Examples of basic services include dental fillings and root canals. Examples of major dental services include implants and dentures.
  • Is your work’s dental plan accepted? Are all dental fees disclosed before treatment? What payment plans are available?
  • What dental procedures are completed in the office; what procedures need to be referred to a dental specialist?
  • How much do procedures cost? Compare different dental practices by the cost of common procedures -- for examples, x-rays, teeth cleaning, filling a cavity – plus other specific services of interest.
  • What type of anesthesia or other medications is the dentist certified to use to keep you comfortable during dental procedures?
  • How are dental emergencies handled after office hours? (Most dentists have a colleague or emergency referral service if they are unable to tend to emergencies.)
  • Is the dentist a member of any national dental organizations? Does the dentist attend local and/or national conferences and conventions? Does the dentist take continuing education courses?
  • What’s the policy on missed or cancelled appointments?
  • What methods of patient education are provided? Does the dentist provide written materials or show in-office videos? Does the dentist explain ways to keep your mouth and teeth healthy? Does the dentist discuss any needed procedures in a way you understand?

Visit several dental offices before choosing your dentist. Look for such things as:

  • Appearance of the office. Does it look clean? Do treatment rooms and equipment appear to be clean?
  • Appearance and actions of staff. Does staff look and act professional? Are they helpful and able to answer your questions?
  • Hygienic practices. Do the dentist and treatment staff wear gloves and protective covering? Are you given protective covering and goggles?

What questions should I ask if looking for a dentist who treats people with special needs?

During your search for a dentist, ask:

  • If the dentist has training, experience or interest in treating patients with special needs
  • If your dental insurance plan is accepted by the dentist
  • If the dentist’s internal and exterior office space has been modified for those with special needs. Are there ramps and handrails to enter and exit? Are treatment methods adapted for patients with special needs?

Organizations and resources that provide access to dental care for needy, disabled, elderly, or medically compromised individuals include (see web addresses at end of article):

  • The Special Care Dentistry Association.
  • Dental Lifeline Network. DLN operates three service programs: Donated Dental Services, Dental HouseCalls and Bridge/Campaign of Concern.
  • Your state’s public health agency programs for oral health.
  • Dental school clinics or hospital dental departments, especially if it is affiliated with a major university. The ADA provides this list on their website.

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

  • Assistance programs vary from state to state. The ADA provides contact information for state associations.
  • The US Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Service Administration.
  • Your state’s public health agency programs for oral health.
  • Dental school clinics. 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 association can tell you if there is a dental school clinic in your area. The ADA provides a link to state dental associations that identify where dental school clinics are located. They also provide a list of dental schools.
  • County Hospitals usually have an emergency dental program.


Finding a Dentist

Finding Dentists who Treat Patients with Special Needs

Finding state public health agency programs for oral health

Finding Access to Dental Care through National, State and Local Dental Societies

Finding Access to Low Cost Dental Care