Choosing a dentist

Regular visits to your dentist – and sometimes to other oral health care professionals, too – are an important part of your overall health. Checkups can help you find and treat problems in the early stages. (Another benefit? Care is often more affordable when you catch a problem early.) Regular trips to your dentist can also help prevent dental issues before they happen.1  

But first things first: How do you find a dentist? These tips and resources can help you start your search.

3 tips to find a dentist that's right for you

It’s a good idea to think about a variety of factors when searching for a dentist. Of course, things like location and hours are important. But choosing a dentist you like is equally important. Building a trusting relationship with your dentist can help you feel safe and comfortable.2 This often makes it easier to bring up any concerns you have. It may also make you less likely to skip or delay appointments. Consider these 3 tips as you begin your search.2

See if the dentist is in the network for your plan

Knowing which dentists are covered by your dental insurance plan can also help you focus your search. Plus, seeing an in-network dentist can help you manage your dental care costs. You’ll typically pay $0 out of pocket for preventive services like routine cleanings. If you have dental insurance, visit your plan’s website or call the number on your plan ID card.

If you’re a UnitedHealthcare dental plan member, sign in to your account to view a list of network dentists. Or view a general list of providers.

What if I don't have dental insurance?

UnitedHealthcare offers a variety of plan options, from broad coverage to budget-friendly. Learn more about our dental insurance plans.

If dental insurance isn’t in your budget right now, you still have options. Your state dental society may be able to help you find care in your area. A dental school clinic is another possible option for lower-cost care.4 See what options may be available for you and your family with these helpful resources from the ADA.

Understand the different types of dentists

While general dentistry may be the most familiar type of dentistry, there are several other specialties in dentistry to know about. Knowing who’s who in the world of oral health care specialists can help you choose the care you need.

Orthodontist When most of us think of going to the orthodontist, we think of braces – and that’s correct. Orthodontists are dentists who completed orthodontic school. They specialize in the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of dental irregularities, like teeth spacing issues (too close together or too far apart) and other concerns.5
Pedodontist (pediatric dentist) Did you know there are specialty dentists for children? Pedodontists are dentists who specialize in the oral health of infants, children and adolescents, rather than treating the whole family like a general dentist.6
Periodontist (gum specialist) Periodontists are dentists who have added training beyond dental school — and specialize in the gums. Gums are the tissue surrounding the teeth.7  A periodontist works to prevent, diagnose and treat gum disease. They can also place dental implants.8
Endodontist (root canal specialist) You might have guessed that “endo” means “within” or “inside.” An endodontist focuses on the tissue inside your teeth. You’d likely go to an endodontist if you have tooth pain or sensitivity that can be treated with a root canal9

How to find a good dentist in your area

You have many good options when it comes to looking for a dentist. Beyond searching online, here are a few ideas to get you started:1

  • Ask a trusted friend, family member or coworker. They’ll have first-hand experience to share and can help answer questions you may have.
  • Check your mailbox. You may get mailers or see newspaper ads from local dentists in your area. If they’re in your community, they may be worth checking out.

Moving to a new area? If you need to find a new dentist, your current dentist may be able to make a recommendation.

What to look for in a dentist

When you find a dentist that feels like the right fit, you may want to take a little extra time to make sure they’re qualified to fully meet your needs. Here are some key areas to explore:

Patient reviews

If you search for a dentist online, you’ll likely find patient reviews. While every person’s experience is unique, reviews can help give you a sense of whether the dentist will be a good fit for you.

Care services

Does the dentist offer everything you may need? Think about care services, as well as extras (like translation services, for example). What about emergency or after-hours care? If they offer it, how does it work? (Many dentists work with a colleague or emergency service if they’re unavailable.)1

Dental degrees

You may notice that most dentists are listed as Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS). You may also see Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD). These degrees mean the same thing – that a dentist graduated from an accredited dental school. Both DDS and DMD degrees require high academic standards and clinical training. All dentists must pass national and state exams before they can practice.1

Certifications and more

Some dentists have certifications called board certifications. This means a dentist has completed extra education and training in their field. Other dentists may be active in professional organizations. Keep in mind there are plenty of great dentists without extra certifications. Also, all dentists must meet continuing education requirements to keep their licenses.1

Focus on your needs and what matters most to you when it comes to dental care. With a little time and effort, you can find a dentist that’s a great fit and a partner in your overall health.