Your relationship with your dentist is intimate. You need to feel comfortable allowing her or him to put their hands in your mouth, and possibly give you injections or use a drill or scalpel in your mouth. When you choose a dentist, you should consider location, prices, speed and quality, and most importantly, personality.
A location convenient for you is important. There are no catchment areas for dentists (unlike GP surgeries). A convenient location might not just be near your home. It could be near your place of work or near a tram stop you can easily reach.
If no local NHS dentists are currently accepting new patients then you might have to travel further than you would ideally prefer, but you can always register somewhere more convenient in the future.
Technically, in the current NHS system, you are no longer registered with a dentist. Instead you are accepted for each individual course of treatment. This means you can even “register” with more than one practice. However, be aware that most practices will give priority to patients who have attended regularly when offering appointments.
All NHS dentists comply with national NHS dental charges set by the government for NHS treatment. The fees are heavily subsidised, and many people are partially or completely exempt from paying. NHS dentistry is therefore excellent value for money. You can be confident you will always be charged the standard price with every dentist in England, Wales and Scotland respectively.
Many dentists will offer some private cosmetic treatment options that are beyond the scope of the NHS. The prices for private treatment options vary from practice to practice, but cheaper does not necessarily mean better. Most cosmetic treatments are very time consuming for the dentist to provide and use expensive materials and so this is reflected in the cost.
Speed and Quality
There’s a saying that you have any two of Cheap, Fast and Quality, but not all three. The NHS is certainly cheap, so you are left with the choice of fast treatment, quality treatment …or a compromise between the two.
All dentists practising in the UK have undergone at least 5 years intense training before qualifying, and are required to continue learning throughout their careers. As a result, all dentists should provide a minimum good and competent quality standard of care.
It can be inconvenient that you may have to wait to get an appointment or to see the dentist when you arrive. This can, however, be a sign that the dentist is trying hard to provide the best quality treatment.
This is perhaps the most important factor in choosing a dentist. Some dentists will talk and give you advice more, while others may quicker and just get to the point. The same applies with the other members of your dentist’s team such as the receptionist, nurses, hygienist and therapist. If you don’t feel comfortable with your dental team, don’t be afraid of trying a different dentist until you find one you are comfortable with. Ultimately you will only know if you get on with your dentist and their team by attending an appointment.