Good dentists take a personal interest in patients and their health. They are prevention-oriented but not faddists. They use x-ray films and probably suggest a full-mouth study unless suitable films are available from the patient’s previous dentist.
A thorough dental examination includes inspection of the teeth, gums, tongue, lips, inside of the cheek, palate, and the skin of the face and neck, plus feeling the neck for abnormal lymph nodes and enlargement of the thyroid gland. In adults a periodontal probe should be inserted between the gums and teeth to detect abnormally large crevices. Good dentists also chart their findings in detail.
Regular check-ups can detect problems early. Routine tooth cleanings, bite evaluations, periodontal examinations, early interventions, and fluoride treatments can often avoid costly repairs. The frequency of maintenance care (including calculus removal and x-ray examinations) should be based on an assessment of the frequency of cavity formation, the rate of calculus formation, the condition of the gums, and any other special problem. Once current treatment has been completed, the patient should be placed on a recall schedule and notified when the next checkup is due.
High-quality dental work usually lasts a very long time, whereas low-quality work may fall out or decay out in a few years. The price of dental work is not the best way to judge quality; rather, pay attention to the time the dentist takes to do the work. High-quality dentistry cannot be done assembly-line style; it takes time and meticulous attention to detail.
Before embarking on treatment, get a clear understanding at your own level of what is to be done and what the outcome might be. Consider treatment options, because there may be more than one way to accomplish a goal. For example, a removable bridge, fixed bridge, or an implant may all be acceptable ways to replace a missing tooth; but they have different advantages, disadvantages, and cost.