Our tables rating individual companies will be more valuable to you if you know how the data were gathered and how they should be interpreted.

Opinion Surveys

We regularly survey area Consumers' Checkbook and Consumer Reports subscribers for their feedback on services they have used. We sometimes also survey subscribers to various other websites and publications and survey a sampling of other area consumers. On our surveys, we ask consumers to rate their experiences with dentists they had most recently used on several aspects of service. Our ratings tables show the percent of each dentist's surveyed customers who provided a rating of "superior" (as opposed to "inferior" or "adequate") for questions on our survey.

We have included on our ratings tables all of the dentists for which we received at least 10 ratings on our customer surveys. If a dentist is not listed on our ratings tables, it simply means we did not receive at least 10 ratings for it.

Since many dentists were rated by rather small numbers of raters, small differences between two firms in the percentage of raters who gave a particular rating (say, "superior") should be ignored. The table below gives a rough guide to minimum differences you should look for in deciding on one dentist over another.

When using these survey data, remember that the questions are to some degree subjective and that the differences among dentists might be explained by differences in the personalities, backgrounds, critical standards, and other characteristics of the raters or by biases these raters might have.

Price Comparison Scores

To compute our price comparison scores, we calculated an average price for each procedure for all the dental practices that quoted on that procedure. Next we compared each dentist's price to the average. One dentist might come in at 120 percent of the multi-dentist average for a particular procedure, and another dentist might come in at 90 percent. We took each dentist's percentage score on each procedure, standardized it, and assigned a weight to each procedure, based on our judgment. We then averaged the standardized, weighted percentage scores to find how the dentist's prices compared to other dentists overall. Finally, we multiplied this overall percentage score by a flat dollar amount, say, $100.

The price comparison score, then, is intended to indicate the relative prices we found for the dentists, adjusted to the base of this flat dollar amount. These scores are imperfect for various reasons: for instance, the procedures checked may not be representative; the weighting of various procedures in the scores may not accurately reflect typical expenditure patterns; and the number of procedures is small.

Timeliness of the Data

All of the data must be interpreted in view of timeliness. Our customer survey data are from surveys conducted from January 2008 to March 2015. Survey respondents were asked to report on experiences in the preceding year. Our price data were collected from December 2014 to March 2015.

Top Ratings

We give checkmarks to companies that score highest on a scoring system that we devise for each service field. Our scoring systems weight the various data in our tables and text based on our subjective judgment of their importance. Since the scores are based entirely on information presented, you can apply your own subjective judgments, and decide whether you prefer companies we have not given checkmarks. Where we do not have important data on a company, we cannot give our checkmark.

A rough guide for deciding whether the difference between two percentages is important If one firm had this number of ratings: And a second had this number of ratings: Do not give much importance to the difference between percentages unless the difference is at least this many percentage points:
Assuming the average of the two firms' percentages is 50 percent 10
30
60
120
10
30
60
120
45
26
18
13
Assuming the average of the two firms' percentages is 80 percent 10
30
60
120
10
30
60
120
36
21
15
10