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What's a Good Dentist?

What is good dentistry?  How do you know if you’ve had good dental work done for you?  I get these questions asked of me, and I have to be careful how I word my answer.  There are good dentists, and there are great dentists.  Frankly, it can be difficult to tell the difference for the general public, and often the difference isn’t known for years.

Most dentists are good.  I have had the opportunity to “clean up” the work of other dentists over the years, and I really try to be careful about how I talk about the previous dentist, the work they’ve done, and how that impacts the patient.  I believe most dentists really do their best and try hard to take good care of their patients.  The difference is found mainly in continuing education: how much, what type, and with which organizations does a dentist work to improve her or his knowledge base and abilities?

Continuing education makes the difference.  The information and the skill set that a given dental school provides the student dentist is already outdated before the classes even begin.  Of necessity it must be.  The students must be given the tried and true solutions for dental care and medical understanding.  It is after graduation and upon beginning of dental practice that a dentist really begins her or his education.  This is when the separation begins.

How can I tell?  So when looking to find out what kind of dentist you hired, ask the staff where the last continuing education class was the the dentist attended.  What was it about?  How about before that?  Are there any new treatments the practice offers now that it didn’t before?  These are just a few questions and considerations that can help any patient determine what kind of dentist they are working with and whether they ought to consider making a change.

After all, one of the most important attributes a person can share is a happy and healthy smile!