Eighty two percent of Angie's List members visit their dentist at least twice a year, but for many, going in for even the most routine checkup is a difficult process. Nearly half of the respondents admitted to being fearful of going to the dentist, with apprehension stemming from general pain of needles and drills to the tooth polisher.
Here's our advice on how to overcome that anxiety and choose a dentist that’s right for you.
Talk to your dentist. If you’re nervous, share your concerns and work through them together. Fear of the unknown is often the biggest obstacle for a patient to overcome.
Prioritize the work to be done. If it’s been awhile since your last trip, you might need some extra work done. Let your dentist know if it’s too much for you emotionally, physically or financially to go through all of the work at once. Your dentist should prioritize your most urgent needs.
Look around and ask questions. Is your dentist a member of the American Dental Association (www.ada.org)? Is your dentist up-to-speed on the latest dental advances? Is the office clean? Are the instruments sanitized? Does your doctor express an interest in your long-term dental health, or are they more interested in selling elective services? You might be afraid of getting a shot, but don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Pick a dentist who will accommodate your needs. How accessible is your dentist? Will they call you back personally if you contact the office with a concern? Does the office send out reminder notices when it’s time for your checkup? Do they explain fees and payment plans before providing treatment?
You wanna be sedated? There are a variety of options available for those too afraid to visit their dentist without a little medical assistance, including oral sedation, intravenous sedation, or the old standby, nitrous oxide – aka, “laughing gas.” Check with your primary care physician first to see, if needed, which option would be best for you.
An overwhelming number of our poll respondents claimed loyalty to their dentist, with nearly four of every five saying they would not see any other dentist but their own. Just one in five were willing to change their dentist, even if it were more convenient to do so.
Some members shared their best – and worst – experiences in the dentist’s chair.
One member moved to a new area and chose her dentist because his office was close to her home. When the dentist came in for the exam, he did not introduce himself to his new patient, nor did he share with her the findings from her exam. Without consulting with the patient on her previous medical history, the dentist made recommendations for major work that the patient later learned through a second opinion, she did not need. The patient also found the office and exam rooms unkempt.
Another member went to her dentist for a checkup and was assured she needed “drastic” amounts of work, starting with redoing a 15-year-old root canal. The patient was assured the procedure would take two visits, but it took five. At one point, the dentist left an assistant to fit a crown and it was done improperly. Instead of fixing the mistake, the dentist sent the patient home with a temporary filling in place of the crown. The member then went to a different dentist, who reviewed the X-rays and said the work the initial dentist recommended wasn’t necessary.
One member felt he was given a hard sales approach the moment he walked into the office for a general cleaning. During his initial visit, instead of getting the cleaning, an office employee was assigned to sell him on elective services, such as tooth whitening.
A patient visited her dentist and before any work was done, the dentist made sure she was completely numb, then talked her through each step as he did the work. She has since referred many friends and family to that dentist.
A member had a severe toothache and contacted her dentist, who saw her immediately without an appointment. The dentist has taken special care to not let her see needles or other “scary” dental instruments during procedures and distracts her with pleasant conversation.
One member’s dentistry staff offers their patients hand and foot massages and provides headphones and a flat panel television on the ceiling to watch during exams.
*2,636 Angie’s List members took our poll. Responses are representative of Angie’s List members, but not the general public.