Today patients have an abundance of choice when going to a dentist. Gone are the days where there were only 1-2 dentist in a suburb, where you had to goto the "good dentist", or the "not so good one". At the same time, this abundance of choice can be confusing, as most people have no idea where to go.
Dentists are divided into 3 groups, based on their type of pratice
Public Hospitals / Community Clinics : These are usually government owned organisations who provide priortise to those who are most in need. Because of this, waitlists are generally long, and the dentists who practice in these clinics usually see many extractions, and basic dentures. The type of treatment may also influenced by the financial arrangement of such locations, which are usually free to attend if you qualify for certain government benefits.
Health Fund Owned Clinics : Not long ago, government regulation mandated that dental practices must be owned by dentists. A health fund would advertise to members, then in turn allow their members to choose their own dentists. Due to recent deregulation, this is no longer the case. Funds such as BUPA and HCF run their own dental clinics, servicing their members. Patients don't have a choice of dentists, and the clinician can change from appointment to appointment. These clinics are usually very proficient at basic cleanings, and fillings, and as a result attract a large proportion of the recent graduate dentists. It is common to see health fund clinics compete based on price, or "no gap", and the fees are generally accepted to be lower than a private practice.
Private Practices : These practices are usually run by a single dentist, or in some cases, a group of dentists. As the overwhelming majority of these clinics are owned by dentists, patients are usually looked after either by the owner dentist, or an associate working closely with the owner dentist. These clinics usually attract more experienced dentists, and as a result see more cases of endodontics, crowns, implants and orthodontic cases. The fees are usually slighter higher, though this is not always the case.
Irrespective of which type of practice you goto, the following are important factors to consider when choosing a clinician for your procedure
1. Experience : It is generally true that with more experience, a dentist becomes more proficient at complex cases. Depending on the procedure you require, experience may play an important part for more complex procedures such as endodontics, crown, implants. On the other hand, it may not have much bearing on procedures such as cleaning.
2. Convenience : Not everyone can goto the dentist at 11am on a Monday. Choose a dentist who is available at times when you are, is important for most people.
3. Quality : Whilst it is difficult for any consumer to judge the technical excellence of dental treatment provided, this is becoming easier and easier. Google provides an abundance of information on dental treatment. Good post operative care from the dentist, and a lack of post treatment complications are signs that a good operator is present. Referral from a friend or colleague can be valuable.
4. Infection Control : This is something not many people think about. A dental clinic needs to regularly sterilize the instruments used in dental procedures. The process of sterilization involves coordination from the dental assistant and involves autoclaves which purges instrument of harmful bacteria. The Australian Dental Association has a practice accreditation program which assess dental practices in several areas including infection control. Pick a practice which has successfully completed practice accreditation.