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How to Choose a Dentist Longtime Tribeca practitioner suggests holding a ‘job interview’

Choosing a dentist is one of the most important healthcare decisions we make. Unfortunately, many of us make this choice blindly or based solely on office location or our insurance company’s provider list. Like all doctors, dentists compete for our business, and so it’s up to us potential “customers” to perform due diligence in the selection process, says Dr. Lewis Gross, director of Holistic Dentists. Gross has practiced dentistry for adults and children in Tribeca for more than 40 years.

He notes a number of caveats to keep in mind when choosing a dentist. For example, the providers covered under an insurance plan don’t always end up being the least expensive.

“In-network dentists have a tendency to do more unnecessary work to make up for the discount and have less flexibility on co-payment,” he says. 

Finding the best choice of dentist is a personal as well as a financial decision. A friend’s recommendation can help, but it’s also subjective. Trying to find the “best” dentist online is also tricky, because search engine optimization filters slant results, pushing certain names to the top of this list. 

Online reviews can also be biased and not reflect the whole story, Gross says.

“Doctors who perform more complicated cases might get more negative reviews,” he explains. “And getting background checks or malpractice history is not practical.”

In order to make an informed choice, Gross recommends compiling a list of candidates through an initial search and then narrowing it down by questioning the doctor and/or office staff on the following subjects: 

  • Year established: “The history of the practice is an indication of the doctors’ long-term guarantee on their work,” Gross says. “You also want to query who the actual provider will be. Is it the owner or a recent graduate of dental school?”  

  • Practice specialties: Ask about the core services that define the office.

  • Alternatives to root canal: Does this office immediately root canal deep fillings, or does it try to save the teeth? “If the tooth senses temperature, then it’s still alive—the pulp can still be saved. It’s better to preserve as much of the natural tooth as possible,” Gross says. “If it’s been infected for a while, then it’s better to extract then entomb bacteria into the body.”

  • Avoidance of mercury amalgam and BPA composite fillings: Metal-free dentistry is considered more biocompatible, he says, and BPA is an ingredient in plastic fillings that should be avoided.

  • In-office technology: A well-equipped dental office will offer virtual consultations; an in-house lab (same-day crowns); and 3-D CBCT scans, Gross says.

  • Caviations and extractions: Does the practice offer ozone and PRF stem cells instead of animal bone graft? Do they remove the periodontal ligament when extracting teeth? The answer to both questions should be yes, he says.

  • Use of non-extraction Invisalign orthodontics and treatment for sleep apnea: Many dentists are trained to address facial collapse and airway imbalances through the use of custom orthodontics. 

  • Preventive care: “The dental staff should offer dietary training if you or your family have high decay rates or bad breath,” Gross says. “An acidic environment, which promotes the bad bacteria in the mouth, is caused by diet, lifestyle and salivary dysfunction.” To test saliva pH at home, use litmus paper first thing in the morning for five days and record the average number. A score below 6.25 is acidic. He recommends an Alkaline Oral Cleanse as a natural alternative to fluoride.  

Treat the initial consultation with the dentist like it’s a job interview, Gross says. 

“If the doctor is disdainful of your query—that side-faced giggle—then you might assume his business profile is more quantity of services than quality,” he says. “We assume in life that we get what we pay for, but in dentistry, that’s not always the case. An informed consumer is not a victim to their disease, but an active participant in the healing process.” 

Holistic Dentists, located at 17 Park Place, accepts many insurance plans and is convenient to public transportation. It offers free pH testing and Alka-White Alkaline Oral Cleanse ($20 value) to all new patients. For appointments or more information, contact the practice at 212-732-2200, [email protected] or [email protected]

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