I am often asked by patients who are moving to another area, what they should look for when choosing a new dental practice; after all in these times of austerity you don’t want to be charged an extortionate amount of money for your dental treatment but at the same time most people are aware that in dentistry, like everything else in life, ‘you get what you pay for’.
So my answer is always the same, use my 10 point check list to assess if your dental practice is offering you great value for money and the high standard of care you deserve.
1. Qualifications and accreditations
Many dentists give the impression that they are ‘specialists’ in specific areas of dentistry, you can check a dentists qualifications at the General Dental Council’s website, (www.gdc-uk.org) Any dentist should be happy to show you membership certificates to associations they are in, ensure that they are registered as ‘accredited members ‘which requires evidence of excellence in dentistry to be submitted.
Look for a dentist who has long term experience in the treatment you need. They should be able to show you many historical cases they have completed with before and after clinical photographs. Ask if you are able to speak with patients who have undergone similar treatments to yours. A dentist should hold a list of patients who have agreed to talk to new patients should they wish to.
3. No financial surprises
A dentist is required to inform you of any proposed treatment and the financial investment involved BEFORE beginning treatment, whenever possible. Many practices employ treatment coordinators who will present you with a fully itemised treatment plan and discuss any treatment options with you. NEVER have any dental treatment without knowing the full amount of your investment first. Check if there is a range of good finance options available to help with more expensive treatment costs. Also, does the practice run a membership scheme with an easy pre-payment membership plan to cover your routine dental needs and include emergency dental insurance even when you’re on holiday abroad?
Any dentist will tell you that today’s modern imaging techniques like digital radiography and intra oral photography are important aids in the early diagnosis and monitoring of dental disease, make sure that your dental practice is using up to date modern equipment.
5. Dental Hygiene Services
Does the practice offer appointments with a Dental Hygienist or Dental Therapist? Every dentist knows that preventing dental problems is the key to long term dental health. Dental Hygienists and Dental Therapists dedicating their time to educate you on how to look after your teeth and gums whilst also treating the dental disease.
6. Access to appointments
Does your dental practice offer ‘after work’ appointments, appointments at weekends, or same day appointments for dental emergencies? Also ask to see their cancellation policy, it should be displayed in their reception area along with a full price list and complaints protocols.
7. Information technology
How good is their website? Is it full of valuable patient information? Does it offer a discounted online shop for dental products and are you contacted promptly after submitting an online enquiry.
Do they have patient testimonials that are easily accessible for you to read from existing patients? Do you have friends or family who can recommend a good dental practice? Any good dental practice should have a healthy stream of new patients from existing patient referrals.
Are the practice surroundings modern, stylish and comfortable? Does all the staff treat you with courtesy and respect? Is the entire practice kept at a high standard of repair and cleanliness?
10. Good Practice awards
Are they a member of the British Dental Associations ‘Good Practice Scheme’ that is awarded to practices that go above and beyond the normal standards expected to ensure excellence in all areas of dentistry! Has the practice or individuals been nominated or won prestigious awards? Remember to check any awards claims dental practices make on their websites to ensure they are entitled to display the award and that they are current.
The checklist above is not designed to be an exhaustive list and many dental practices will still be offering a great level of dentistry to their patients even if they are missing a few of the above, some may even have additional points.
In case you were wondering, at Lane Ends Dental Practice we are proud to say that we work hard to meet every point in the above checklist, but we take nothing for granted and are constantly striving to improve our service by listening to what our patients tell us.