If you are relocating to Raleigh, North Carolina or the Research Triangle Park area, this information may help you find the best dentist to provide the level of care most appropriate for you and your family.How Accessible Are Dentists in Raleigh?In Raleigh, dental care is much more accessible than it is in many other parts of North Carolina. Raleigh is located in Wake County, which is one of eight North Carolina counties with dentist-to-patient ratios that exceed the national average. Sadly, the state of North Carolina ranks 47th in the nation in terms of dentist-to-patient ratios. While the state ranks low for dental care availability, Raleigh residents have great access compared to the rest of the United States. By combining June 2009 figures from the North Carolina Dental Board with 2008 census figures for Raleigh, one can extrapolate that there is a ratio of about one dentist per 1,350 residents.What Kind of Quality Can I Expect?The quality of care (as well as the number of dental providers) in Raleigh is influenced by the nearby University of North Carolina School of Dentistry in Chapel Hill, NC. Raleigh, the Research Triangle Park area, and neighboring cities and counties have exceptional access to dental care, thanks in large part to the presence of graduates of this school.Founded in 1954, the UNC School of Dentistry has a national reputation for both research and education. Each year, the school admits about 80 students to its DDS (doctorate of Dental Surgery) program, with about 80% of those being in-state admissions. In the United States, schools of dentistry – unlike medical and law schools – have no official rankings. However, UNC is typically a top contender on unofficial lists. The nationwide respect for the UNC School of Dentistry program helps to validate the quality of dental services being provided in Raleigh by graduates of that school.The North Carolina Dental Board is the regulating body for providers of dental services in North Carolina. Its mission is to ensure that the dental profession merit and receive the confidence of the public and that only qualified persons be permitted to practice dentistry and dental hygiene in the state of North Carolina.
What Types of Dental Providers Exist?While the North Carolina Dental Board is the regulatory body, the North Carolina Dental Society is a professional organization that promotes the improvement of the public’s oral health and the art and science of dentistry. It encourages the maintenance of high standards of practice and competency, and represents the interests of members of the dental profession and the public that it serves. While membership in the professional organization is not mandatory, the North Carolina Dental Society provides figures that give some insight into the distribution of different types of providers of dental care in Raleigh. Raleigh members include dental providers in these commonly used categories: General Practice (142), Orthodontists (17), Oral/Maxillofacial Surgery (11), Endodontists (9), Pediatrics (8), Periodontists (7). June 2009 figures from the North Carolina Dental Board indicated that 264 dentists in Raleigh were licensed to practice General Dentistry. The combination of these two sets of numbers should provide for rough extrapolation on the number of specialized providers.What Are the Emerging Trends in Dental Care?In Raleigh, the provision of dental services is beginning to change, thanks to the progressive thinking of some dentists. This change involves making a broader range of dental care services available under a single roof. General dentists willing to invest in appropriate training can offer a broader range of dental care services, a concept sometimes referred to as Comprehensive Dentistry. Some also include Cosmetic Dentistry services. Having services provided under a single roof also eliminates the need to obtain consents and transfer dental records from one practice to another.This emerging model for dental care in Raleigh has distinct advantages – one being that the dentist most familiar with the patient’s dental care and preferences can provide most, if not all, of the needed services in a familiar environment. A familiar environment can help to reduce the anxiety that some patients experience when they have to go to a (new) specialist to receive needed services. (Be assured that general dentists who provide a broader range of dental services do refer very complex cases to appropriate dental care specialists who focus on only one very specific dental care issue, and whose skills may be needed in those particular situations.)Since specialists in Raleigh are not nearly as accessible as general dentists (see figures above), general dentists who offer a broader range of services can help provide more timely treatment for many “non-routine” dental needs (e.g., wisdom tooth extraction, periodontal treatments, orthodontics). Ask any prospective provider of dental care in Raleigh to explain the range of services the practice is making available to you, as well as the specific credentials of the dentist(s). You may also want to ask whether the practice is accredited by the state of North Carolina to perform sedation dentistry, because the state recently enacted guidelines and an accreditation process to ensure public safety in the administration of sedation in dental practices.