What to Look for When Choosing a New Dentist

Looking for a dentist can be a scary experience. You want someone who understands your needs and fears in dental care. Perhaps you need someone who specializes in gentle dental care and understands if you have a lot of pain when at the dentist, or even just reservations about being at the dentist. You want someone who is friendly and has a friendly staff. Not only that, but you want someone who knows what they are doing; an expert who has the degrees and certifications to prove what they are doing.

It may seem like you need your own dental degree to decipher what kind of certifications, licenses and accreditations to look for in a quality, reliable dentist. However, it should not have to be this way. What you need to know about dental certifications, licenses and accreditations can be broken down into simple categories so you know what to look for in your next dentist.


In order for a dentist to become licensed in the state that they want to practice in, they need to have successfully completed a dental degree program. A Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) degree or a Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree is required. The degree must be from a dental school accredited by the American Dental Association’s Commission on Dental Accreditation (ADA CORA). The dentist must also pass the National Board Dental Examination. There also can be state specific requirements that must be met before a dentist can be licensed.


For some states, obtaining dental licensure is not the last stop. Certain states require professional certifications, especially for specialized dentists. There are several different dental certifications, such as a certification in pediatrics or one in orthodontics. Each certifying board has their own set of requirements for being certified, such as testing, education and experience. Most states also require continuing education credits in order to maintain a dental certification or licensure. Completing continuing education shows the state board, certifying board, and also dental clients that the dentist is staying up to date with changes in the dental field. As in the medical field, the dental field is constantly changing, and new practices, procedures and techniques are being put into place. You want to make sure your dentist is up to date on the newest practices in the dental field. You can be assured of this if your dentist is licensed and certified in his or her specialty.


Individual dentists are not accredited, but it is important to make sure your dentist attended dental school at an accredited institution. The Commission on Dental Accreditation, also known as CODA, is recognized by the United States Department of Education. Its job is to accredit dental programs. The public has access to the CODA website and their activities and news. You can also view which schools have lost accreditation on their website. Dental schools must meet the CODA’s requirements for pre or post-doctoral dentistry programs in order to be accredited. CODA ensures that each accredited program is up to date with the ever-changing world of dentistry and what they are teaching their students.

American Dental Association (ADA) Membership

Another quality you can look for when searching for a trustworthy dentist is if they are a member of the American Dental Association, or ADA. Seventy percent of all dentists are members of the ADA. A dentist who has a membership with the ADA can influence health policies at national and local levels. Being a member of the ADA also helps your dentist stay informed and up to date with new dental information and practices. It gives your dentist access to continuing education and the newest in dental sciences and research.


In general, when looking for a new dentist, you will first want to make sure that the dentist is licensed to practice dentistry in your state. You will also want to make sure that he or she went to an accredited dental school. Most likely if they are licensed in your state, they will have graduated from an accredited school of dentistry. You will want to check to see if your dentist has certifications, especially if your dentist is specializing in a certain type of dental practice like orthodontics or periodontics. Finally, it is an added bonus if your dentist is a member of the American Dental Association, or ADA. You can check your state certifying body’s website to check on your dentist’s licensure. You can also call the dentist and ask to see proof of licensure or certifications. A confident and well-practiced dentist will not be afraid to prove their credentials to potential customers.


Article provided by Park Meadows Orthodontics, an orthodontics office specializing in Invisalign, braces and teeth straightening with several locations serving Denver, CO and surrounding areas..