One look at our office, and our clients know immediately that Dr. Verigin is a sports fan – from the signed football, basketball and track posters gracing the ceilings of each treatment room to the baseball photos, bobbleheads and other memorabilia decorating the front office. That display makes one fact obvious: despite Dr. Verigin living in Giants and A’s country, the Atlanta Braves are his – and his family’s – team.
Last season, one of the regular advertisers on the Braves Radio was a chain of dental offices serving Metro Atlanta and surrounding areas. Their ads typically featured a guy whining about what dental offices don’t do – which, of course, opened the door to talking about what this particular dental group offers, with the implication that this makes the practice unique.
For instance, in one ad, the guy asked why dental offices only offer “cleanings, x-rays and fillings.” Why don’t they straighten teeth, he wondered, or do extractions or root canals?
Problem: even the most general dental practice does a lot more than cleanings, x-rays and fillings.
In fact, one of the most important services a general dentist provides is thorough examination of the teeth, gums and soft oral tissues. The taking of x-rays is but one part of the exam process, and even then, done only occasionally. The dentist evaluates the health of the oral tissues, noting any problem areas needing further examination or treatment. He or she also checks for oral cancers, whether through a normal visual exam or using advanced optic technology. If face, head, jaw or neck pain are issues, the dentist can determine whether they are of dental origin and provide appropriate treatment.
When needed, the general dentist provides restorations beyond simple fillings – crowns, bridges, inlays and so on – whether for cosmetic/aesthetic or functional reasons. He or she can provide dentures if necessary. Some dentists do implants and cosmetic veneers. And the dental team as a whole teaches patients how to take good care of their teeth at home so as to prevent the need for extensive repair work down the line.
Ah, but what about straightening, extraction and root canals?
Well, general dentists can and sometimes do provide these services. For instance, Dr. Verigin provides a range of basic orthodontic care, from removable appliances to traditional brackets. But he refers complex cases to orthodontic specialists, just as a general physician refers patients with complex pain issues to orthopedists, neurologists or other specialists.
Similarly, many dental offices provide root canal treatment, but more complex cases may be referred to specialists called endodontists.
Extractions, on the other hand, are often best left to dental surgeons. While some general dentists may provide them in simple cases, more complex procedures are, justifiably, referred out to specialists.
Interestingly, although the Atlanta clinic ad mentions extractions as something the anonymous guy wishes dental offices would do, nothing of the sort is listed under “Services” on its website. In fact, nothing listed there is anything that your average, randomly chosen dental practice wouldn’t provide, with the possible exception of nitrous oxide – a mild sedative which is used only by some practices.
So if most general dentists provide the same basic range of services, how do you go about choosing which dentist to see? Living magazine offers a good list of things to consider – though we do take some issue with the question about ADA membership, which tells you little about a dentist’s qualifications. (Consider: according to one Wealthy Dentist survey, more than one quarter of dentists have quit the organization for a wide variety of reasons – and 14% of dental specialists have never joined.)
But beyond the matters of qualifications, facilities and office protocols emphasized in the Living list, we suggest also looking for a dentist who
- Is committed to nontoxic, integrative, biological dental practices;
- Can provide you with the specific quality services you need;
- You can communicate effectively with; and
- Will will work with you as a partner in health so that you can keep your smile – and the rest of you – healthy for a lifetime.