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dentist showing female patient dental X-rays

When choosing a new dentist, it is important to find someone you trust.

People sometimes underestimate the importance of good oral health in their lives and for their loved ones. Proper oral health improves quality of life, so it is important to choose the best dentist for your family.

“You and your dentist will be long-term oral health care partners,” explains WebMD.com. You need to find a dentist you are comfortable with and who you trust.

To find a dentist that meets your needs, consider the following five strategies:

Hold a job interview

Before you visit the dental office, angieslist.com recommends you interview potential dentists or dental practices: “Find out where the dentist graduated, how long they have been practicing and what type of dentistry they do, how many staff members work there and how long have they been with that dentist.”

An online search should produce the dentist’s professional credentials and allow you to verify where the dentist got professional training. Attending a top school does not necessarily mean specific dentists will be right for your family, but it should at least provide evidence of proficiency at their craft.

Consider your wants and needs

If you have a busy job where it is difficult to schedule time away, you might want to consider a high-volume dental practice that can get you in and out quickly. Families have crazy schedules. If the dentist schedules evening and weekend appointments, that is a good indication the office understands and respects the importance of patients’ time. Ask about emergency visits. If you have a dental emergency on a Sunday, there should be an accommodation for that.

You might also consider a large dental practice that gives you the option of seeing specialists or different dentists in the same office.

Ask for referrals

The American Dental Association suggests you seek recommendations from a trusted friend or relative. If your mom or neighbors raves about a dentist, find out what things they like. You can also ask your family doctor. You can even ask other dentists if there is someone they might recommend. Most are understanding if you want a dentist close to your home or one that works with your insurance network.

Check insurance and pricing

You want a dental practice that charges reasonable fees and also works with most dental insurers. The Consumer Guide to Dentistry says the office should be able to tell you the complete cost of procedures in advance, including what will be covered by insurance and what portion you must pay out of pocket. In some cases, dentists will also offer a discount if you pay in full at the time of your appointment.

Meet the office staff

If everything checks out, consider scheduling a simple cleaning or an initial exam. Use that opportunity to see the office and talk with the staff. They should be friendly and should act professionally. The office should be clean and uncluttered. When you meet with the dentist, tell say you are searching for a new family dentist and ask for time to have a few questions answered. Talk about the practice and the types of procedures offered.

If your initial appointment went well and you felt welcomed and comfortable during that initial visit, then you are ready to expand the tryout and see how the dentist handles other family members. Some dentists are great with children — others, not as much.

The level of care and comfort can vary greatly from one office to another. That doesn’t mean a dentist is unqualified. It just means it is important to find an experienced dental practice that meets the specific needs of you and your family.

Flint Stephens has a master's degree in communication. He writes regularly on business, financial and medical topics.