Choosing a dentist

Regular dental visits 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

1. Figure out your must-haves

Does your dental office need to be close to work, home or school? Do you need a provider that’s open nights or weekends? Are you looking for dental care for your whole family (kids and adults)? Answering these questions can narrow your search and help make it easier to find a dentist that fits your lifestyle.

2. Think about your personal needs

Beyond basic must-haves, are there other services you might need? Maybe you or someone in your family needs translation or interpreter services. Or maybe going to the dentist makes you nervous. This is common for many people, so you may want a dentist experienced in caring for anxious patients.3 Whatever your personal needs, there’s likely a dentist who can meet them.

3. Schedule a meet and greet

Once you’ve done some research and found a few good options, set up time to meet with each dentist (typically called a consultation). This is a great chance to check out the office and ask questions. It’s also a good time to bring up any concerns, like anxiety or dental health issues. Sharing your dental records can also be helpful. Your previous dentist can usually send your records to the new dental office for you.

See if the dentist is in-network

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.

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.