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For The Independent
What Makes a Dentist a “GOOD” Dentist?
By Dr. Tareq Khalifeh, DDS

In the U.S., dentistry is a licensed profession, practiced only by individuals who have graduated from undergraduate school and dental school and have then passed stringent state licensing examinations. But how do you tell if your dentist is a good dentist? Here are three basic questions to ask:

1. Is your dentist licensed? Finding the answer to this first question is easy. You can always check on the licensing status of a dentist with your state Dental Board Board. (In New York, you can easily look up the licensing status of any dentist online at


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2. How do you know whether someone is conscientious and thorough? The answer here requires care and effort on your part. Start by asking friends, family, and neighbors for recommendations. Ask whether they feel they are well-cared for by their dentist, and what they like and dislike about the practice. Consider asking them the questions recommended by the American Dental Association for finding a dentist (available at

  • Is the appointment schedule convenient for you?
  • Is the office easy to get to from your home or job?
  • Does the office appear to be clean, neat and orderly?
  • Is your medical and dental history recorded and placed in a permanent file?
  • Does the dentist explain techniques that will help you prevent dental health problems?
  • Is dental health instruction provided?
  • Are special arrangements made for handling emergencies outside of office hours?
  • Is information provided about fees and payment plans before treatment is scheduled?
  • 3. Is the individual technically proficient and a good communicator?
    Have you ever wondered what makes someone a really good dentist? Dental schools have wondered that too, and have spent time studying the question. The answer is that modern dentists must be very skilled technically, but must also love communicating with people.

According to a survey study published in Nature in 2000, the dental profession has been changing profoundly, with ever-increasing emphasis on technical skills and technologies.

But dentistry is not really about teeth and gums. It’s about the well-being of the patients who own those teeth and gums, and their ability to take good care of them. Dentists who love working with people help them make informed choices, and delight in building lifelong relationships. They work collaboratively with the patient’s other healthcare providers, making referrals for matters requiring an internist or other professional. Indeed, some in the profession have stopped using the term “dentist” in favor of “oral physician.”

Building Trust
Most people stay with their family dentist for life, unless the relationship is interrupted by a relocation. Finding a new dentist is often stressful, people tell me, because they’ve never really had to think about it before. As with all health-care choices, it’s a process that needs careful research, including and setting up visits with prospective providers. In the end, you want someone who recognizes your role as a partner in your own health care, and who has a solid track record of successful relationships with his or her patients.

Dr. Khalifeh’s practice, Philmont Family Dentistry,
can be reached at 518-672-4077.

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