Each dental plan has a different network, which determines what dentist accepts your coverage. Learn more about how to choose the right dentist.
It is important to schedule regular cleanings and checkups with your dentist. There are many dental issues that can cause serious damage, but do not have any immediate symptoms. Maintaining a regular cleaning schedule lets your dentist stay on top of any potential issues, catching problems before they become harder to treat. Regular cleanings also improve your oral health, decreasing the chance of getting a cavity. Barring any dental emergencies, most patients schedule a dental appointment once every six months.
There are several different types of dentists to choose from. In most cases, patients visit a general dentist. General dentists perform basic cleaning, take x-rays, remove wisdom teeth and fill in cavities. They can also install dentures, dental bandings or other implants. Some general dentists advertise themselves as family dentists. They perform the same tasks as a traditional dentist, but treat both children and adults. Other dentists specialize in advanced treatments, and may not be covered under traditional dental insurance.
Choosing a Dentist
Even if you only visit your dentist twice a year for regular cleanings, you want to take the time to research all your options. For many patients, cost is one of the first considerations for selecting a dentist. While it is natural to want to save money, you may not get the best savings by selecting the dentist with the lower price. If you have dental insurance, you must select a dentist within your network to get the best savings.
Your insurance network refers is a list of medical specialists where your insurance is accepted. If you schedule an appointment outside of your network, you are responsible for all the costs. If you are switching to a new insurance plan, your network may change, requiring you to find a new dentist. Not only does each insurance provider use a different network, but network availability may change within the same insurance company based on the level of plan you purchase.
Some of the top dental insurance providers in the United States include:
The easiest way to find out if a dentist is in your network is to ask before you schedule an appointment. Otherwise, you can check directly with your insurance provider. For example, if you get your dental insurance through the government, you can download a list of dentists in your network. It is important to note, your insurance network is subject to change, but you are always alerted in advance when a network change will occur.
Finding a Dentist
If you already have dental insurance, one of the easiest ways to search for dentists is to see what dentists are in your network. If you have not selected an insurance plan, you can find qualified dentists through the American Dental Association (ADA). The ADA features an online search tool, which lets you search for certified dentists in your state. The government also has a search tool to find dentists and other medical professionals in your state.
Another option to find a dentist is word of mouth. Do not be afraid to ask friends or family for recommendations. If you receive dental benefits from your work, you can also ask your colleagues for advice. This guarantees you end up with a dentist that accepts your benefits.
Another consideration when searching for dentists is whether there are any first-time or signup benefits for available. For example, some dentists will give you a free cleaning the first time you make an appointment. Others will offer yearly benefits or periodic discounts, based on how long you have been with the dentist. You may also receive better offers on specific services, such as free x-rays or teeth whitening.
Cosmetic dentists do not treat medical issues. Instead, they focus on improving the appearance of your teeth. Because it is not considered medically necessary, cosmetic dentistry is not typically covered by average dental insurance. In some cases, cosmetic dentistry is covered if it relates to a medical issue, such as requiring braces to straighten your teeth after surgery or repairing a chipped tooth. Some common tasks performed by cosmetic dentists include teeth whitening, gum contouring, installing braces or getting veneers.
Periodontists specialize in the soft tissue surrounding your teeth and jawbones, known as the periodontium. They primarily treat gum diseases, such as gingivitis and periodontal disease. They also perform flap surgery, root scaling and certain bone grafts. Because periodontists are specialized dentists, you typically only need to schedule an appointment with one if your general dentist recommends it.
Orthodontics are most commonly associated with treating children and teenagers, but adults can also benefit from an orthodontist. Orthodontists treat issues where your teeth are improperly positioned. They most commonly use bracers, expanders and retainers as part of the treatment. They can also treat over or underbites in their patients.
If you have a root canal, you may need to see an endodontist. A root canal is one of the most serious dental issues, which can be difficult to treat. If you have a root canal, the inside of your tooth is damaged, causing either a pressure or inflammation in your mouth. In severe cases, endodontists also perform an apicoectomy to prevent chronic tooth infections from spreading in your mouth.
Emergency Dental Services
If you experience a tooth emergency and need immediate treatment, you can see an emergency dentist. Unlike the other variants, emergency dentists do not specialize in a specific area or treatment. Instead, they are available outside of usual dental hours, with many working in emergency rooms. Some examples of when you need to see an emergency dentist are if you lose a tooth because of an accident, experience sudden bleeding in your mouth or develop severe mouth pain.
Emergency dentists provide immediate treatment to alleviate your symptoms. In most cases, you need to arrange an appointment with your dentist after receiving emergency treatment. If your insurance covers emergency room visits, this coverage may extend to emergency dental services as well, but it varies depending on your plan.