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Going To The Dentist

Below, please find information that will be helpful to you as you plan your next trip to the dentist.

Choosing Your Dentist

You might consider several dentists before choosing a practitioner to stay with year after year. There are many questions to consider during an initial visit with a new dentist: 

  • Is the appointment schedule convenient for you?
  • Is the office easy to get to from home, school, or work?
  • Does the office appear to be clean and organized?
  • Does the dentist explain techniques that can help you prevent health problems?
  • Does the dentist take time to educate his/her patients?
  • Is the dentist available in emergency situations?
  • Are fees and payment plans made available before treatment is scheduled?
  • Is your dentist a member of the American Dental Association/NYSDA?

Your dentist will be your partner in maintaining your oral health. Take time to ask questions during your initial visit that will help you find the right dentist for your long-term dental care.

D.D.S. or D.M.D.?

Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.) and Doctor of Dental Medicine (D.M.D.) have no differences. These are only indications of the degree awarded upon graduation from their respective dental school. Dentists with either degree have the same education.

Universities have the prerogative to determine what degree is awarded. Both degrees use the same curriculum requirements set by the American Dental Association's Commission on Dental Accreditation.

Generally, three or more years of undergraduate education plus four years of dental school are required to graduate and become a dentist. Additional post-graduate training is required to become a dental specialist, such as an orthodontist, periodontist or oral and maxillofacial surgeon.

Visiting the Dentist

At a dental visit, you are being examined by a doctor of oral health capable of diagnosing and treating conditions that range from routine to extremely complex. NYSDA and the American Dental Association believe that understanding the skill and knowledge your dentist must possess, their delivery of health care, and the degree to which dental disease is almost entirely preventable are essential to ensuring more Americans enjoy lifelong dental health. 

Dental X-Rays

Dental x-ray examinations provide valuable information for your dentist. Even if you aren’t in any pain or distress, x-rays can show a dentist what is happening beneath the surface of your teeth and gums. If you have questions about your x-ray exams, be sure to talk with your dentist.

The amount of radiation that we are exposed to by dental x-rays is very, very small. Especially in comparison to the daily amounts of natural radiation we are exposed to, there isn’t much concern surrounding dental x-rays. Paired with protective aprons and guards, your dental x-rays are a safe and effective way to look closely at your oral health.

Section 6611(7) of the New York State Education Law states that:

“Any dentist or dental hygienist, who in the performance of dental services, X-rays the mouth or teeth of a patient shall during the performance of such X-rays shield the torso and thyroid area of such patient including but not limited to the gonads and other reproductive organs with a lead apron thyroid collar, or other similar protective garment or device. Notwithstanding the provisions of this subdivision, if in the dentist's professional judgment the use of a thyroid collar would be inappropriate under the circumstances, because of the nature of the patient, the type of X-ray being taken, or other factors, the dentist or dental hygienist need not shield the thyroid area." 

Children’s Oral Health

The American Dental Association recommends regular dental check-ups, including a visit to the dentist within six months of the eruption of your baby's first tooth and no later than the child's first birthday. Preventive care such as cleanings and, if necessary, fluoride treatments, provide children with 'smile' insurance. Routine dental exams uncover problems that can be easily treated in the early stages, when damage is minimal.

Remember, baby teeth set the foundation for a healthy adult mouth. They are important to take care of, and regular oral hygiene should be introduced early on to acclimate children to caring for their teeth.

The ADA has a wealth of information on oral health for children of all ages. Visit to learn more! 

Paying for Dental Services

The American Dental Association works to compile the most up-to-date information on the different payment methods for dental services. Whether you’re looking for an explanation of dental insurances, plan coverage or direct reimbursement you can utilize this ADA resource. 

Concerned About Your Care?

When you choose a NYSDA member, your dentist is committed to providing the highest quality dental treatment possible. If you have a concern about the care provided to you, the first thing you should do is go back to your dentist. Often, discomfort after treatment can be fixed with an adjustment or additional care.

Peer Review is a dispute resolution process NYSDA offers as an alternative for patients to resolve complaints about treatment quality. Peer Review cannot hear complaints that are before (or have already been resolved through) the courts or the New York State Education Department.

NYSDA Peer Review Committees resolve disputes about the quality of care and appropriateness of treatment rendered by its member dentists. They review and mediate disputes among patients and dentists.

  • There is no charge for Peer Review.
  • Peer Review is objective and confidential.
  • Peer Review can only evaluate treatment completed within the past two and a half years.
  • When Peer Review finds treatment unacceptable, the dentist is directed to refund only the fees received for that treatment. Peer Review does not make punitive awards.
  • When treatment is found to be appropriate and the care provided acceptable, all outstanding patient fees are remitted to the dentist.

How Does It Work?

  • Both the patient and the dentist submit the Agreement to Submit to Peer Review. A mediator will contact them to try to resolve the dispute.
  • If mediation is unsuccessful, the Peer Review Committee conducts a hearing. The committee is made up of three volunteer dentists. These dentists examine all patient records and other evidence submitted. They interview the dentist and the patient. They individually examine the patient’s mouth.

Peer Reviews are conducted by your local dental association or society. Contact your local dental society to request an Agreement to Submit to Peer Review and/or a Guide to Peer Review.

Have a Fee Dispute?

Fee disputes are private matters between doctors and patients. Dentists establish fees individually and independently of each other. Peer Review addresses questions of “usual or customary fees” only in cases involving dental benefit companies.

Fee disputes must be settled privately between the dentist and patient, or by the courts, and can’t be resolved by NYSDA or any other public agency.