In any industry there’s good and bad professionals. It can be hard to spot the warning signs to avoid walking through the wrong door. Never fear! Once you tick the boxes to these five key considerations you’ll be in the loving arms of your perfect dentist in no time.
1. Reviews and reputation.
No matter how big your town is word gets around. Now’s the time you should have your ear to the ground listening out for what we like to call ‘raving fans’. Existing patients that love going to their dentist so much they’re stopping people in the street just to share their experience. That’s the golden ticket to Perfect Dentist Town right there! It’s even better when a close friend or family member you know values quality and genuine service gives you a positive recommendation. This is the most trusted step forward to finding the number one dentist near you, without question.
But what if you’ve moved and don’t know any locals? Or your trusted friends avoid the dentist as much as you do, only attending when it’s an emergency with the soonest available dentist? This is when online reviews play their part however, proceed with caution…
On the surface, well publicized online review websites and directories look to provide a good overview and rating for the local dentists in town however, even the Australian Dental Association (ADA) urges patients to use these particular online services with caution. The ADA stated in a 2016 article discussing Whitecoat, a popular directory to search for dentists, “While on the surface an innocuous concept, the reality is that there’s a great deal about which to be concerned”. The write up goes on to say; “Much of this concern stemmed from the fact that Whitecoat is the brainchild of a private health insurer (NIB) with a vested interest in promoting the clinics they own or those with whom they have a contractual arrangement. While the site promotes the fact that consumers have access to 200,000 reviews, they are highly subjective and do not convey the full scope of activities by the dentist who treated them, supplying an incomplete overview of the treatment provided, and severely limiting the possibility of divergent outside views appearing on the site.”
Where to find the trusted online reviews:
I’m sure we’d all agree, Google Reviews are thought to be the number one source for genuine, authentic reviews. The customer review gathering platform, Podium, highlighted why; “A lot of times when consumers are reading Google reviews, they are looking for confirmation that they are making the right decision.” Agreed. The decision for us to turn to Google reviews is for good reason. Google has some of the strictest review policies, and because of this, it’s also one of the most trusted and used. To date this has been as reliable as it gets in my opinion.
A quick word of warning using Google reviews. As you comb through the comments, use your judgement. We all know there’s just no pleasing some people. You do need to sift out the haters and focus your attention on the well-intended, genuine reviews. The second key to note is to look for the businesses response. If they understand the importance of reputation, and care about the experience they are giving patients, they will be taking the time to respond. I believe this says something good about the care and attention they aim to give. Statistics show consumers are all over this with 97% reading businesses response. Make sure you’re one of them.
The second reliable source is through AirSmile’s online platform. This is next-level credible, even more so then Google, as only patients who have attended the practice for an appointment are invited to leave a comment and star rating. Unlike Google where anyone can manipulate the rating for good or bad. AirSmile works like Uber’s rating system. You are given the opportunity to leave a review the moment the ride ends but beyond that, you’re unable to leave feedback for just any-ol’ driver. AirSmile works in a similar way. When the patient walks out of their appointment the AirSmile app on their mobile device invites the patient to leave a review. Their feedback is instantly posted for you to view on the AirSmile Directory. You can’t get more genuine and reliable than that!
The best thing about the AirSmile directory is there’s no feature listings and dentists are not listed in star rating order, unless you choose to ‘sort’ that way. Dentists can’t buy their way to the top of the list like every other directory on the market. Practices have to earn their reputation and star rating with our AirSmile users. We’re all about transparency and people power you can trust.
2. The vibe of the team.
Think of a time when you’ve walked into a business and you feel the tension – cut it with a knife even. The room feels cold, lifeless, zero positive vibes from the people in it. The human instinct to take flight is all you can consider at this point. That negative energy is real and you need to listen to it if you want to feel a sense of trust and rapport moving forward with this new practice.
The good vibes should be felt during your initial research online, but the real test is the first phone call to inquire and book your new patient exam. Is the receptionist helpful, friendly and informative? Yes! This means the front office team have been well trained. A true sign this practice understands the importance of investing time and money into making sure the right person is there to greet you from the very beginning. A practice that ‘gets’ this is one you should continue doing business with.
When you arrive what’s the mood like? Can you hear laughter between the dental team and happy conversations being had with other patients? When you look around is everyone smiling, joyful and working in harmony, or are there some weird vibes going on between team members?
The dental practice is a lively hub of activity and one that needs to sing from the same song sheet if they wish to deliver the platinum service your looking for. Ignore the flashy equipment, fancy decor and muffins on offer and look deeper into the team dynamics. If it feels good, you’re onto a winner (then it’s time to sit back and enjoy that muffin, yum!)
3. They take the time to build a relationship.
Chair-side chat is the bridge between you and your perfect dentist. Even if you were referred to this dentist by a reliable source, if your personalities don’t gel it can be a deal breaker. The best way to find out is to simply have a conversation. However, not all dentists allow enough time to chat and build relationships due to time constraints and the need to get down to business minutes after you’ve sat in the chair. Since you’ve taken the time to read this post in an effort to find your perfect dentist, I’m guessing you’re looking for a deeper connection verse a wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am experience.
The thought of going to the dentist for a first visit and it taking 45 minutes to 1 hour might seem like overkill, but if your motive is to find a lovable, lifelong dentist, my recommendation is to seek out practices that offer longer appointment times. Go in armed with your questions and concerns and use this opportunity to get all the answers you need to help cement your decision to commit to this dentist before moving forward. You’re going to get real close and personal with this person, best you actually like them and gel as people.
4. Infection control measures in place.
The dental practice is a health care setting and therefore it should feel somewhat sterile and sparse but still have some love and life within it. A tasteful layout that has considered the infection control aspects, as well as the comfort of the patient, is what you should be looking for. Finding this balance when designing the construction of a dental practice can be tricky for a clinic owner. Here are some main things to keep an eye out for to make sure you’re in the hands of a team that know their stuff;
- Clean and tidy benches – not littered with unnecessary tools and materials that can become contaminated and used on another patient / you!
- Well presented team in clinical uniforms, hair pinned back and no jewelry to trap bacteria
- Personal protection equipment being used for both you and the dental team (gloves, masks, safety glasses, gowns)
- Barrier protection on equipment that can’t be easily wiped over to prevent cross contamination
- A general consideration towards your safety
- Proper hand hygiene protocols
In 2020 the world was tested on it’s ability to follow strict infection control measures. This highlighted and educated the population on the importance for these simple yet vital protocols to be in place, especially within the dental clinic where the risk of cross-contamination is far higher due to aerosols created during dental treatments. This may seem boring compared to the other tips but believe me, it’s one of the most important things to look out for to know you’re in safe and trustworthy hands.
5. You get to hear ALL the options.
Information is power! If the dentist takes the time to explain every option in details, not just the one service they assume you’ll chose (which sometimes is based on their own perception of you at face value), but every option on the table irrespective of cost, time and longevity of the treatment itself, then you’re in the right place.
I’m a firm believer that the dental team should go through all the options with you as if you were a cherished family member. What options would they suggest if you were their mother, brother or favourite Aunt? That’s the unbiased advice you want to hear. It doesn’t mean you have to choose the one you think they would do for themselves. This process is about arming you with the information to make an informed decision that’s right for you. No judgement or agenda – just facts about your oral condition and the treatment outcomes you can expect.
So even though you might not choose the $7000 treatment plan, and instead opt for the $900 course of treatment, or nothing at all, at least you know your dentist has taken the time you deserve to make sure you made a decision knowing the pro’s and cons of each option first. If they support you regardless of which way you go, go home and give them a 5 star Google rating immediately. This dentist is a gem and anxious dental goers need to know about them… right now!
Notice the points I didn’t mention? These are often the first things patients seek out but in my opinion, are the ones you should consider last…
- Lowest price – dentistry can be expensive and quality doesn’t always come cheap
- Time limited deals and membership schemes – look for the catch and what’s in it for them. Deals and membership schemes are not always negative, as practices are eager to invite new patients in and sometimes a sweet deal does the trick, but just be sure you know the terms and conditions involved prior.
- Flashy website, paid ads and number one listing on a Google search – anyone can pay for an amazing website to be developed with the perfect SEO boost, but can they deliver on their sales promise? Word of mouth and reviews are a great way to separate the good from the bad if you think you’re being bamboozled by a great sales pitch.
- Over-the-top social media – this goes without saying. We all have that friend we’ve un-followed because we know their profile is a total fake.
- A dentist in the spotlight – a dentist with an ego and something to prove might not have the best intentions when it comes to patient attention and care. Sometimes the quiet achievers humming away in the background, not making too much noise, are the ones that have the greatest value to give.
Although these things are certainly important to take into account, you must take a moment to realise that most are advertising and marketing ploys to lure you in, and sometimes may not be a true reflection of the practice, team and the experience you’ll have. Not always of course! But money buys a lot of ‘in your face space’ that can blur your decision making. Be mindful before using price and flashy paid advertising as your only means of finding the number one dentist in your area.