Finding the Right Dentist
I get a lot of appointments for "2nd opinion" consults. A lot. Some of it is for work already performed and some of it is for work that is proposed in a treatment plan. Let me preface this diatribe with the admission that I am not perfect, I have had failures and I have had unhappy patients. But any dentist trying to represent otherwise is lying. The biggest reason for the 2nd opinions or unhappiness at other offices is a lack of communication at some level. Finding the right dentist for you isn't about finding "the best". "Best" is a title claimed by everyone on google and I hate to be the bearer of reality, not everyone graduated "at the top of their class" as stated on their website biographies.
About Dr. Kim
(At graduation I was #12 of 121 eligible students. Certainly not the top, but not a slouch by any means!) Finding a dental home is a daunting thing for many patients and the main reason is fear. It could be fear of us in general or fear of getting ripped off, but it is fear based. I find that in dealing with the unhappy patient or the unsure patient, communication has been the best solution in easing those fears and guiding them to a decision or a place they are comfortable with. "Do I really need to change out my silver fillings?" "Why does this still hurt?" "Which is better, the implant or the bridge?" "Should I get this tooth extracted or not?". All sorts of questions that need answering, but weren't at some level.
The reality of dentistry and dental work is that not everything NEEDS to be done right away! Shhhh! Don't tell anyone a dentist told you that! But there is treatment that NEEDS to be done. There is treatment that SHOULD be done. And there is treatment that COULD be done. It should be very clear where your proposed treatment lies. In terms of time frame or "When should I take care of this, doc?". My answer is always "it's up to you." That's how it should be. Get the work done when you can and when you want and get the treatment option you feel is best for you given your circumstances and wants and given all the pluses and minuses. You shouldn't feel strong-armed into getting the treatment done and the doctor should let you know if it's a more immediate concern or not...and if you do wait a certain period of time, it could or could not turn into a more serious/painful/expensive treatment.
Again, communication. And in terms of "best" for treatment. It really shouldn't be "well, I feel like the best treatment is" or "I think you should do XYZ". It should be more along the lines of "I know this is the best treatment because" or "If it were my mouth, I would do XYZ". Dentistry shouldn't be based off a feeling or anecdotal evidence. It should be based on sound research, both practical/clinical and in the lab. And there is lots of it that is taught by reputable dental schools and pounded into our heads for years and readily accessible in journals and continuing education courses. Don't drill into a tooth or extract a tooth with an end treatment based off of feeling. It isn't about what I think, it's about what I KNOW.
How to Find the Right Dentist
So the question is "HOW DO I FIND A GOOD DENTIST??" There are many many good dentists out there. And despite all the horror stories about pain and being ripped off, those dentists and types of offices are really in the minority. The best way would be to ask co-workers or family. At the very least you would be able to sift out ones to avoid if they have had poor experiences. Then try one out with a consultation. Feel them and the office out a bit. People usually have a good sense of an office and a doctor fairly quickly. Ask questions and see if the doctor takes time to answer your questions. Did you have to wait a very long time? Do they seem efficient or are they always asking you the same questions over and over? Ask more questions! Be an active participant in your healthcare. It's the really quiet patients that always make me nervous. If a dentist is proposing a large treatment plan when historically you haven't had any problems, getting a 2nd opinion may be a good thing. If they look very quickly and say everything is fine, getting a 2nd opinion may be a good thing as well! You have to feel comfortable with the quality of care you are walking in to. Second opinions certainly aren't an affront to any practitioner, or at least they shouldn't be. As a patient, it is certainly your right to get as many opinions as you want or need. Your teeth and smile need to last you for the rest of your life. "Be true to them, and they won't be false to you!"