How do I find the Best Dentist in Kitchener?

Dr. Kyle Hornby

"How do I find the Best Dentist in Kitchener or Best Dentist Near Me?"

If you're new to the area, or frustrated by past experiences you've probably thought about this before. Well you're in luck! This region enjoys great General and Dental Specialist care. In addition, I've taken the time to outline a few tips and strategies below that will land you a Dentist who is a great fit for you! So let's get down to helping you find the best Dentist in Kitchener and Waterloo. I hope you enjoy the article!

Kitchener-Waterloo has a wonderful collection of talented Dentists and Dental Specialists. The standard of care in our region is very high. When you have such a high standard of care, the average dental treatment you receive is very good. So what, then, is likely to make one dentist seem better to you compared to another dentist? The answer, in my opinion, is communication and the Dentist's philosophy. And I'll share a secret with you: the best dentist in Kitchener for one person is probably not the best dentist for another.

Now, you can do the typical "dentist near me" search on Google but I think the approach I suggest below will give you a better result most of the time.

Choosing Your Best Dentist in Kitchener: Communication

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Most people who remember going to a Dentist 40 years ago will remember their visits like this: "my Dentist told me what I needed and then we did that". Over the past few decades, the model of care has really changed. Dentist now are trained to provide all treatment options, costs, pros & cons, timelines, etc., and then support the patient in their final decision. It's a great model of care because it puts more control and autonomy in the hands of the patient.

I believe most people today would respond well to this treatment model and increased communication. However, some patients might not. I still encounter a few patients each month who encourage me to tell them what to do. In other cases, a very anxious or phobic patient may feel overwhelmed by too many details or options. So, the best dentist in Kitchener is not the same individual for every patient.

How, then, do you find out about a Dentist's communication style? Book a meet & greet appointment at their office. Take a few dental concerns with you to coax the Dentist into putting their communication style on full display! It's one step toward finding your best Dentist in Kitchener.

Choosing Your Best Dentist in Kitchener: Treatment Philosophy (We're Not All The Same!)

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I have heard people say: "A dentist is a dentist is a dentist". I think we hope for standardization in many fields, especially in healthcare, but it's not the case. And it simply can't be the case. Humans are shaped by their past experiences. So, too, are Dentists. A Dentist that sees a particular solution fail more often compared to another Dentist, will be less likely to recommend that particular treatment. We try our best to take all factors into account when giving a treatment prognosis, or likelihood of success. But, again, every Dentist sees a different collection of treatment outcomes as their career progresses, and it shapes them.

Now, you might wonder, "well how can I tell these differences when I'm looking for the best Dentist in Kitchener?". And, of course, the answer is that you can't. However, there are other differences in treatment philosophy that you can glean from asking a few strategic questions. If you ask the right questions, you can tell if a Dentist is likely to take a conservative or minimally invasive approach to dental care or if they are more "treatment-oriented".

I want to give you an example to start with. Take a patient who is missing a single tooth. Does this patient need to have the tooth replaced with an implant or dental bridge? You might be surprised to hear that many Dentists would say "yes" but some would say "no". There are Dentist geared toward keeping your teeth in an ideal state or "as close to perfect as possible". But there are other Dentists that ask: "are you happy with your smile and are you able to function and eat properly". Which Dentist would you prefer? Which one would you think to be your Best Dentist in Kitchener?

As a Dentist, I can tell you that missing a single tooth will not cause any major adverse health effects over time. If there are teeth behind the missing tooth, they can tip into the space slowly over time affecting your bite. But in terms of breaking more teeth in future or being more susceptible to infection, the single missing tooth probably has no effect on the likelihood of these things occurring.

dentist Kitchener downtown
This lady looks pretty happy with her smile to me.

In another example, a young adult (see picture above) has some slightly misaligned teeth. Should she undergo orthodontic treatment to straighten her teeth? Some Dentists would say "yes" most of the time. Others would ask: "are you happy with your smile?". And some Dentists wouldn't even broach the subject, assuming instead that a patient will bring up the alignment of their teeth if they feel it is a problem. Can you see how each of these groups would have different rates of patients undergoing treatment?

So, again, book a meet & greet consult with a candidate Dentist and then use a few strategic probing questions to learn more about their treatment philosophy. Ask as if you are considering treatment. If you have slightly crowded teeth, ask: "would you recommend orthodontic treatment?" Don't ask "what can be done?" because then they will simply tell you about orthodontic treatment and that's not what you are looking to find out about. You want to know how commonly they recommend treatment and, especially, elective treatment.

You can also ask something like "should I get veneers to make my teeth brighter?". See what they say. When a patient asks me this question, I answer it with another question: "I like how your teeth look, but do you want brighter teeth?". I feel it is not my place to appraise the beauty of a patient's smile. But, if they want something changed esthetically and they don't smile because of it, I am happy to discuss options with them.

Now, some patients don't like that I won't give them an answer about their smile or the brightness of their teeth. They think I'm the expert and I should be able to give them an answer. These patients would probably prefer a "treatment-oriented" Dentist. I have no problem intervening to treat dental decay or an abscessed tooth. Those are functional problems that must be treated to maintain proper health. But judging a person's smile is not something I feel comfortable with. That's just me.

Now, there are others like me and there are others not like me. And, most importantly, neither group is wrong. Finding your best Dentist in Kitchener entails thinking about which care philosophy you prefer and then pursuing a Dentist who practices that philosophy. It may take you some time and a few meet & greet appointments, but it's definitely not hard to do if you know the right questions to ask.

What About Online Dentist Finder Services?

In the last few years, tons of online platforms for locating Healthcare Providers have cropped up on the web. Opencare is one of the more popular ones.

Many of these services are similar to HomeStars for locating renovation providers: service providers pay a monthly fee and the online platform claims they've "vetted" the provider and ensure a high degree of satisfaction.

Obviously, a platform that is funded by the service providers it claims to evaluate raises some flags. How objective is their rating system?

So, it's certainly possible to find a Dentist that you like on these sites, but be aware that many such platforms are funded by the Service Providers whose work they're vouching for.

Update (November 9th, 2020):

Great Questions to Ask Before the First Appointment

  1. How many Dentists are there at this office? Do you keep your patients with the same Dentist over time? This wasn't as important to ask 20 years ago when most Dental offices had 1 or 2 Dentists, the Dentist(s) had ownership of the office and, therefore, were more likely to be there long-term. Now, however, there are more offices housing numerous Dentists, and some may not have an ownership stake in the office. At some offices, you may see a different face each time you're there and so you won't enjoy the kind of continuity that results in great dental care. There are also many offices that are owned by a Dentist that does not even practice at that given location. Typically, these offices house associate Dentists that may practice there transiently, before moving on.
  2. What does great patient care mean to you? The best approach to Dentistry is based on prevention. A Dentist can be really helpful to you by analyzing why you're getting cavities, suffering from recession, or losing bone from around your teeth. They'll focus on dietary causes, dry mouth, acid reflux and other things that can lead to compromised oral health. You'll have the feeling that they're trying to help you avoid costly dental work. If it sounds like a Dentist thinks great patient care is straightening and whitening your teeth, instead of helping to get your tooth decay problem under control, they may not be a great fit for you!
  3. How do you handle treating patients that have severe dental anxiety or phobia? I would estimate that 75-80% of patients have some level of fear or anxiety when it comes to dental treatment. If you experience mild-severe dental anxiety, you'll want a Kitchener Dentist that's super patient and friendly. They'll take their time with you and make sure that you have the opportunity to communicate when you need a break. They'll encourage you to let them know how you're feeling during treatment. They may also offer amenities to help take your mind off of what's going on such as in-operatory TVs. Get a sense of what the anxiety relief protocols are like before making your choice!
  4. What kind of dental emergency services do you offer? Many Dentists will participate in an after-hour emergency/on-call service. This will allow you to get through to a Dentist even when their office is closed. Typically, these services are run by your town or region's local Dental Society. If a prospective Dentist participates in one of these services, you'll have the advantage of being able to get dental care even at the most inconvenient of times!

Signs That You Might Not Be at The Right Office For You (Red Flags in Dental Care)

So, there are some signs that may signal you're at a Dentist that's not right for you and your family. Here they are:

A Dentist that acts like they're ABOVE you. The best current model of dental care involves a Dentist supplying you with all the information and expertise you require to make the best decisions for you and your family. The best decisions aren't the same for everybody and for every situation. Sometimes the final decision is heavily influenced by treatment costs and that's always totally okay! If you feel like your Dentist is judging or lecturing you, they may not be the best dentist in kitchener for you.

A Dentist that gets annoyed easily. The most common complaints we hear from new patients at our office are that a previous Dentist was irritated when they didn't go with the most expensive option or when they asked questions. A great Dentist will be happy to answer all of your questions and will even encourage dialogue about treatment options and care. They should also be completely okay with you challenging them. As Dentists, we're her to be resources for, not authorities to, our patients!

A Dentist who consistently talks to you about changing your smile. So, this one comes with a bit of an asterisk because some people enjoy hearing about the latest and greatest ways to whiten and straighten teeth. However, if you've never asked about cosmetic dentistry options, then having a Dentist that repeatedly brings these up to you can make things uncomfortable. They're basically assuming your smile isn't beautiful already.


If you are looking for a new Dentist in Kitchener, take some time to think about what you appreciate in a care provider. Don't hesitate to reach out to multiple clinics and learn about their treatment philosophy. Learn about what they bring to the table. Meet & greet consults are a great way to engage with a candidate Dentist and learn more about their dental care approach. If you devote some time to making your decision and use the tips I have included above, you are likely to enjoy a successful result!

Written by Dr. Kyle Hornby, Kitchener Dentist

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your Kitchener Dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a dental condition or treatment.

Enjoy a fresh start.
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