Dentist visits rank right up there with taxes and death among most people’s inevitable but least favorite activities. But the oral-care argument is strong: Spend time in a tooth pro’s chair and you’ll probably stay in better health and avoid costlier, more painful dental problems in the future. Combine it with diligent self-care (don’t forget to floss!), and you’ll be smiling for years to come.

If you need a good dentist, we can help you find one. For general dentists, our Ratings Tables report patient reviews for dentists who received at least 10 ratings on our surveys of area consumers. We also rate each practice for price, based on the results of our undercover shopping. For dental specialists, our Ratings Tables report patient reviews plus indicate which were recommended most often by other dentists in the area who we surveyed.

In the articles below, we review points to keep in mind when choosing a dentist. We also discuss how to keep costs down. You’ll want to check prices: We found that some dentists charge more than twice as much as others for the same procedures. For general dentists, our price comparison scores will guide you toward low-cost providers. Fortunately, using a dentist with low fees doesn’t mean you have to forsake quality. We found that many of the dentists who receive high ratings on our surveys of patients also charge below-average fees.

Be suspicious if a new dentist recommends far more treatment than your previous one did—for instance, if suddenly many silver fillings need to be replaced, several teeth need to be crowned, or your gums need extensive surgery. This is an area where we receive frequent complaints in our surveys of patients. To help you decide on a treatment, your dentist should fully describe the condition of your mouth and the corrections needed. It’s good practice for the dentist to provide a written treatment plan. If the proposed treatment is extensive, consider getting a second opinion.