Some of us are so daunted, we simply avoid dentists altogether. This is not a smart strategy. According to the federal government’s “Healthy People 2020” program, studies link poor oral health to chronic diseases, including diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

Regular visits to the dentist play a significant role in preventing these conditions. So how should you go about selecting a dentist? Look for these five things:

1. Up-to-date technology

Over the last 25 years, dentistry has seen a proliferation of digital technologies that dramatically improve quality of care. This is especially significant for dental x-rays, which are crucial to detecting major oral health issues. However, in large doses, x-ray radiation can contribute to oral cancer. Digital x-ray technology can reduce radiation exposure in patients by 90 percent.

2. Ongoing education and training

For many decades, the skills needed by dentists and other dental professionals remained pretty much the same. This isn’t true today. Over the past ten years, advances in clinical and administrative technology mean dentists and their staffs need to regularly update their skills to meet the needs and expectations of the industry and their patients.

"You may not look forward to going to the dentist, but there are ways to ensure you are getting the most from this important healthcare treatment."

3. A friendly and responsive staff

A visit to the dentist is not high on most people’s list of favorite activities. While you can’t necessarily determine the treatment you’ll need in advance, you can determine the quality of the staff experience by choosing an office offering a streamlined appointment process, pleasant interaction and a billing process that accepts most insurance plans.

4. A clean and modern office

Most people believe restaurant restrooms are good indicators of kitchen cleanliness. The same might be said for the dentist’s office. If the surroundings are clean and modern, and the magazines current, chances are good the same can be said for the equipment and care.

5. Interest in serving others

A key principle for most dentists is a commitment to doing good. Some dentists, working through dental support organizations, gather volunteers and community partners to donate millions of dollars of free dentistry yearly to those in need. Others raise money to bring safe drinking water to developing countries, or raise money for causes like breast cancer treatment.

As the dental landscape evolves, many dentists are freeing themselves up to spend more time with their patients by partnering with dental support organizations. These organizations bring dental offices advanced technology and training, focusing on the business aspects of running an office. This allows dentists to focus their time and efforts on delivering superior patient care.

You may not look forward to going to the dentist, but there are ways to ensure you are getting the most from this important healthcare treatment.