Risky Business

1 – 800 – Paid For By the Dentist

The Dirt on Dental Directories

First let me state, I’m not against dental directories. I think they are a great resource for people who don’t know how to obtain a new dentist. They support organized dentistry and believe in addressing oral health care needs. These directories provide the best service they can, but can’t always control which doctors pay for a listing.

What they can control is their pre-screening process. It includes:
  • Confirming state dental licenses and renewals
  • Reviewing any disciplinary action on record
  • Verifying specialty certificates and sedation permits
  • Monitoring malpractice insurance levels and renewal

This is a great service but not unique to them or any directory. Any person at any time can look up a dentist’s history within the state in which they were licensed. This is not top secret or privileged information. It would be amazing if their pre-screening process included the dentist’s clinical skills or communication style. While there are many factors involved when seeking a new dental health provider, these two qualities are incredibly important.

The dental directory 1-800-DENTIST stated “One thing that sets 1-800-DENTIST apart is the fact that we carefully match patients with pre-screened dentists. First, let’s start with what pre-screened doesn’t mean. Pre-screened doesn’t mean that we judge the clinical skills of our dentists. We’re not qualified to do that. “

No dental directory is qualified to do that but if they aren’t, then who is? Although it may take a little leg work, here are some suggestions for resources that are qualified to judge the clinical and communication skills of the dentists.

  • Ask your friends, coworkers and family if they have a dentist they recommend. Personal referrals are always great, relationships have already been established.
  • If you don’t have a dentist, but have a past or current relationship with an orthodontist, periodontist, endodontist, or other dental specialty, ask them for a referral. They see patients from all over the community and can give you a couple of names.
  • Contacting your local dental society is another option. You will not be referred to any dentist who has had legal action taken against them. Most local dental societies know their chapter participants and can direct you toward a dentist who can address your specific concerns.
  • If there is a dental school in your area, arrange to become a patient of the school clinic. This avenue is timely, but very thorough. Also, most dental school faculty are volunteers and have private practices close by.

Communication and clinical skills are critically key for dental health success. And not just one of those attributes but both. We as patients need to understand our dental problems before fixing them. And if our dental problems can only be fixed through dental measures, we have to make sure our dentist is clinically talented so that more harm isn’t done.

My point is be discerning and use more practical resources for finding a new dental provider. It may be easier calling a company like 1-800-DENTIST but easy doesn’t necessarily mean better or even very good.

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