Finding a dental office that meets all your needs seems like an almost impossible task. For most people, a colonoscopy sounds more appealing than a dental appointment, especially given the need for regular dental appointments, which is why most people opt to go only for emergencies.
There are several reasons why this is a bad idea. First, all too frequently, emergencies happen on weekends and holidays when most dental offices are closed. For a dental office to see you after hours, prescribe medication, or possibly even return your weekend phone call, you would have to be an established patient of that office. Otherwise, the only other option would be to go to an ER. However, ER’s are not designed to treat dental emergencies unless an infection has become life-threatening. This can happen when the lower teeth have abscessed, and the infection has caused the lymph nodes to swell to the point of restricting your airway.
Most people find a dentist either from social media or google reviews, then compare their choices with their dental insurance (that’s a future topic). But more and more private practices are dropping insurances or going “out-of-network”, insurance websites often don’t maintain an on-going current list of who’s in and who’s out, and patients end up even more disgruntled.
After 14 years in practice, I’ve learned dental practices that accept, or are “in-network” with, fewer insurance companies, are more qualified and skilled, which is why they know they can stand on their own without insurance plans. I know I will get flack for this because we are geared to believe insurance companies have our best interest at heart when the reality is their only interest is their own bottom line. I tell patients every day unless you have major work done yearly, dental insurance is not necessary, and it will most likely cost you less to pay cash out of pocket than what you pay annually for insurance (which, technically, is still out-of-pocket).
So how do you find a dental office you can trust? Actually, google reviews are a good place to start, preferably combined with your own friends, family, and other personal recommendations. But because your needs may not be the same as the next person’s, you should find a practice that not only takes time to listen to your individual needs but can help you truly answer all your questions. Commonly, I hear patients ask, “are you gonna yell at me”; “ok I’m ready for you to tell me how horrible I am”; “I know, it’s been forever since I’ve been to a dentist and this is the worst you’ve ever seen”.
I have only one answer to those questions: if any practice you ever go to is rude to you, makes you feel bad, or demeans you in any way,……. LEAVE and DO NOT RETURN! They are after your $$ and you are just another number to them. My honest response to all my patients who say these things 1) I am not going to yell at you, I am not your parent, you’re an adult and it does not help our relationship for me to be condescending. I am glad you are here; it takes a lot for many people to simply walk in the door, so I feel like you have taken a huge step to prioritize your oral health just by walking in our doors.
As for the time between dental visits, let me put it in perspective for you… the average person sees their dentist twice annually. So, if you haven’t been in 3 years, you’ve only missed about six visits. You are here now. Focusing on the past changes nothing, let’s focus on what you got you here so we can change your future. Honestly, I have patients who come every 3 months whose oral hygiene is worse than those patients who haven’t been here in five years. 365 days/year less the two days you visit a dentist, leaves you with 363 days to handle your own homecare. How often, and how well, you are brushing and flossing supersedes how often you go to the dentist.
MY favorite patient comment has always been “I am so scared of the dentist “, or “this is by far the most hated place I have to be”. I understand. DENTAL FEAR is NORMAL. There is a lot of anxiety surrounding dental visits, bad past experiences, fear of needles and pain, or simply the financial responsibility of it all. These feelings are normal and nothing to be ashamed of.
DO YOU KNOW WHAT I‘M AFRAID OF?
DOLPHINS…. You heard me right, FLIPPER… the mammal that brings people joy, smiles and adoration. Everyone loves dolphins. They are the mans-best- friend of the ocean. Saving people from shark attacks and other creatures as well. There are TV shows that have them as the overall friendliest creature out there. Heck, people let their kids ride on them while on vacations in Mexico or the Bahamas. People pay big money for the “dolphin experience”.
So why am I terrified of them, you ask? When my husband and I were engaged he took me on one of those big money dolphin experiences in the Bahamas. Like so many people, my dream had been to swim with the dolphins. So, we scheduled our experience squeezed into wet suits (an experience all in itself) and got in the water for our “experience”. There was a little 5-year-old in our group standing next to me. I watched as the dolphin swam towards us – getting bigger than the child by the second. He was a MASSIVE FISH. With the dolphin in front of us, I panicked!! THIS THING WAS HUGE…. And to top it all off, the Trainer showed us its teeth!! My anxiety and fear were at 150%. There was no way in hell I was getting on this thing!! I didn’t care that we’d already paid, I was so afraid I was unable to move, my fiancé was dying laughing so told the 5 y/o to go ahead. He jumped on like it was a bucking bull and had the time of his life. Silly kid, what do they know?! I didn’t even care to ask for our money back. So, when you ask why I won’t make fun of you for your fear - it’s because your fear of a dentist is a legitimate one – as opposed to my ridiculous fear of everybody’s favorite fish, for crying out loud. This story usually ends up with a patient, who started out in tears and anxiety, to a patient laughing and feeling sorry for me.
LOL. It‘s ok, now that we have shared our deepest fears with one another we have formed a trust. This is where our relationship begins. So let’s get started – let’s change your life forever!