I’ve got bad TMJ problems and I need to have a gentle dentist. I used to have a great dentist, but he retired about three years ago. Since then, I have tried four different dentists and they were all really rough with me. I explained to them going in that I had TMJ problems and they all seemed to understand what that meant, but then even doing the exam was hard. The last one I saw found a cavity, so I begrudgingly let him fill it. He yanked my head around every which way. It was awful and I hurt for days afterward. I feel like they’re all so rushed that they forget that I’m a person, not just another mouth in the chair. Is a gentle dentist something that still exists somewhere? How do I find one?
Emily – Kansas City, Missouri
Sorry to hear you’re having such terrible luck with the dentists you’ve tried. Yes, you can still find a gentle dentist if you know what to look for. For starters, it’s probably best to avoid clinic-type offices. The fewer number of dentists and treatment rooms the place has, the more one-on-one care you’ll probably receive.
Even gentle dentists who have been in practice for a while may have a few rooms for hygienists, and someone who takes on a lot of orthodontic cases may also have rooms that are largely operated by assistants, but if all the doctor does is general dentistry, and he hasn’t been in practice for a few decades, look for an office with fewer rooms. That means the doctor won’t be dividing his time between you and several other people and he’s less likely to be rushing from room to room.
You can also check reviews and talk with the staff ahead of time. People naturally want to be in an office where they feel valued and where they’re making a difference, so doctors that provide the best patient care tend to retain their staff longer, too. If the staff seems to be well-educated on TMJ problems, there’s a good chance that education came from working with the doctor for an extended period of time. Before you even visit, you can ask them if they’re familiar with TMJ, or how long staff members have been there, and even how many treatment rooms the doctor has. These kinds of seemingly benign questions will probably tell you more about the doctor’s demeanor than asking if he’s a gentle dentist will.
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