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 MouthHealthy.org to learn more!

Paying for Dental Treatment

If you do not have dental insurance, the most economical way to keep your teeth healthy is to budget for routine preventive treatment. Some dentists offer their patients payment plans or discounts. Many accept patient’s credit cards or credit cards limited to medical expenses. Before applying for any credit program, review the terms carefully. Be sure you fully understand the repayment and interest requirements. The New York State Dental Association (NYSDA) does not have information about charitable programs or loan availability. NYSDA does not offer financial assistance for dental treatment.

Patients with limited incomes may be eligible for New York’s Medicaid and Child Health Plus programs. Each provides coverage for treatment services. Medicare does not provide coverage for routine dental treatment. New York’s health insurance marketplace, New York State of Health, provides information about available dental insurance plans.

The Donated Dental Services (DDS) program provides free, comprehensive dental treatment to people with disabilities, the elderly or the medically fragile. The program operates a volunteer network of dentists throughout the state.

Many local hospitals have dental clinics. Check with your county Health Department about Federally Qualified Health Clinics [FQHCs] or other Article 28 clinics in your area that may offer treatment on a “sliding scale”.

Dental schools that offer dental clinics to the public:

  • Columbia University College of Dental Medicine (212-305-4511)
  • New York University College of Dentistry (212-998-9856)
  • University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine (716-829-2821)
  • Eastman Institute for Oral Health, University of Rochester (585-275-5688)
  • Stony Brook University School of Dental Medicine (631-632-8989, 631-632-8974)
  • Tuoro College of Dental Medicine (914-594-2638)

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.

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.