Choosing the right dentist is challenging. The internet is a great tool to seek out information for everything we want, from recipes to DIY jobs. But is it that easy to find a medical professional, like a dentist, reading blogs and looking at websites?

The simple answer is no.

There are two aspects of a medical professional which I think most people look for,

  1. Technical skillset: These are skills that a medical professional posses to solve a medical problem.
  2. Human skillset: This is about the personal aspect of medical care. Communication, empathy, compassion, patience and in dentistry, the most important-gentle care.

Technical ability.

The technical skills needed to perform dentistry is very demanding and precise. How long a filling will last or a prosthesis remains in function depends very much on the individuals’ circumstances and quality of workmanship. Quality of care is dependent on time taken to complete the task .

Knowing if a dentist does good work cannot be determined by a patient, unless that patient is a fellow dentist who can examine the work themselves! I would like to think that the majority of qualified dentist from reputable Universities have a base level of competence to manage most dental conditions well.

However, the difference between good and excellent is difficult to determine. Like most things in life, a job done well is not only dependent on core competence but also the personality of the individual. Some have a greater eye for detail and seek to achieve a result greater than acceptable. The delivery of excellence should never be judged by glitzy websites or fancy equipment, this is marketing.

Technical competence of a professional is something very difficult to judge. My advice is-word of mouth, no pun intended, ask close family and friends who they see. Have fillings lasted many years without needing to be redone frequently in a short time, like months? How comfortable is their denture? Online reviews do not provide evidence of technical ability.

Personal skills.

When looking for a dentist for you or your family, the person you choose must be someone you can relate to at a personal level. They don’t need to be your friend but you must be comfortable interacting with them.

These are some aspects to consider when you are trying to find a suitable dentist:

  1. Communication: Do they take the time to explain the diagnosis and treatment options in a logical and simple format which you understand?
  2. Patience: Does the clinician spend the time to attend to your questions and concerns? Or are they rushing you through the door?
  3. Empathetic: Do they take the time to understand your fears and concerns before treatment?
  4. Comfort: Do they make you feel comfortable when you are talking to them? How about the procedure, did they take the time to make sure you were not in unnecessary pain? Do they have a ‘light’ touch? Dentistry is not always comfortable but don’t confuse discomfort with pain.
  5. Attentiveness: Are they listening to you and not just hearing you? Does the dentist listen to your concerns and understand your problem?
  6. Team approach: How do you feel when you walk into the dental surgery? The most important aspect of all clinical settings are the staff. Are they friendly and supportive? Do they cater to your needs? Do they interact well with each other and the dentist?

Finding a dentist to suit is difficult. Recommendations from trusted personal sources are still the best options to short list your search for a dentist. Especially when the person you are asking have similar values and personality to you. If they have been happy with their dentist for some time it is likely you will too.

If you are moving interstate or cannot see your dentist anymore because of distance, ask your existing dentist to provide some suggestions. I have often spoken to colleagues to ask for some recommendations for our long standing patients moving interstate or into regional areas. A recommendation from another clinician is the best lead you can have when looking for a new dentist.

I hope this helps you in some way, find a dentist you will be happy with.

Roland Chong

Roland has over 20 years experience as a general dentist. Roland does all aspects of general dentistry with a special interest in prosthodontics (crown and bridge work) and cosmetic dentistry. A member of the International Team of Implantology, Roland is constantly developing his skills by collaborating with international experts.