My husband and I recently had to find a contractor in Portland, Oregon, while we live in southern California. Since we didn’t have the benefit of having a word of mouth referral, we turned to the internet to search for one. I happened upon a web based company that acts as a referral source for contractors. The referral company gave me the contact information for three supposedly “pre-screened” and “excellent” contractors. In the process of speaking with one of those contractors I asked how he became part of that company’s referral network. He said that he had to pay 50 dollars for each referral that was sent his way. So, if a contractor pays to be part of a referral network, then are they truly prescreened and excellent at what they do?

After my experience of looking for a contractor, I started thinking about how I would choose a dentist if I was new to an area and had no idea where to go.

There are a couple of ways I would not look for a dentist. For instance, I would not even bother to contact a dental referral service such as 1-800-DENTIST. To be a prescreened member of that service, the dentist pays nearly $2000 per month. Also, I don’t think I would look in the phone book due to the limited amount of information in a print ad.

The first thing I would do is an online search for local dentists in my area, using a search engine such as Yahoo local pages, google, or superpages. Then I would look over the websites of the various dentists that came up in my area. Most websites provide a pretty good look and feel of the dentist, the practice scope, hours office is open, emergency patient information, insurance plans accepted, and payment plans.

All 50 U.S. states individually license their dentists. In California you can do a search on the dental board’s website for a dentist’s license. The website will tell you how long a dentist has been licensed, the status of the license, and if there are any outstanding complaints against them.

Another avenue I might consider in finding a dentist is calling an oral surgery office and asking for a referral. There are usually a limited number of such offices and they will have contact with a large number of the general dentists in town.

Finally, I would call any potential dentists I was interested in seeing, to ascertain the availability of appointments and whether or not the dentist makes patients wait. I want to know that if I ever were to have a dental emergency that the dentist would be able to see me relatively soon.

In my office, we try and see all new patients within two weeks of their initial phone call. We almost always run on time, because I can’t stand to make people wait. And when someone has an emergency I see them the same day. If a patient has an emergency over a weekend then I am available via my pager. Lately, I have been receiving quite a number of new patients over the internet that have seen my website or seen a review of my practice. The internet definitely has a wealth of information!

Kari Ann Hong, DDS
1000 Newbury Road, Suite 190
Thousand Oaks, CA 91320