How to Check Dentist Credentials

Anyone in need of finding a new dental care provider should be concerned about the credentials and skills of the doctor under consideration. An essential step in choosing a dentist you can have faith in involves checking credentials before setting a first appointment. This can be done by using the Internet and making a few phone calls.

Website Dentist Credentials

Before checking a dentist's credentials, one must know what the dentist is claiming as his credentials. To begin, visit the dentist's website. Look for a biography or "about" page to find the dentist's credentials, including the name of his dental college and year of graduation.

If this information is not posted on the website, look for the practice's contact phone number. Call the dentist's office and request this information. Note the information so you don't forget.

Verify Degrees and Graduation

Although most dentists are honest about their college degrees, dishonest dentists working without the proper credentials bank on most patients never checking their credentials. For this reason, it can be a wise choice to verify the dentist's educational credentials.

To do so, contact the dental school's registrar and verify that the dentist completed a course of study. Many colleges will cooperate with these requests. If the college you contact will not provide this information, verify your dentist's credentials at the National Student Clearinghouse website for a small fee.

Research the School

A valid degree from a college is not enough to confirm a dentist's credentials. Many colleges are merely "diploma mills" or "degree mills," selling degrees without providing an education to the recipients. Some other colleges do provide an academic program, but have not gone through the rigorous requirements necessary to prove themselves as quality educational institutions.

For these reasons, it's necessary to confirm that the school is real and accredited. Use the Internet to make sure that the school has been legitimately accredited by visiting the U.S. Department of Education's accreditation website, which lists all accredited academic institutions in the United States.

Check for Licensure

In the U.S., a dentist must be licensed to practice. Although the requirements of each state licensure board are different, a dentist must obtain a license to legally practice in this country.

To ensure that your dentist has a valid license, contact the organization that licenses dentists in your state. Many of these organizations will display this information on their websites. Others will verify a dentist's license by phone or mail.

Check a Dentist for Complaints

State dental boards exist to license dentists and take disciplinary action against those who do not meet the board's standards of practice and conduct. So, while checking the dentist's licensure, it is worth asking the state board whether there have been any complaints made against the dentist.

The Better Business Bureau also has a category for dentists. BBB grades dentists based on their performance, service and trustworthiness, and serves as an intermediary when clients have complaints. A low rating suggests that the dentist has not performed well against these factors or has unresolved complaints.