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Drilling down to find a good dentist

Wednesday - 12/7/2011, 2:16pm  ET

Kristi King, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - Some dentist drills might as well sing and dance to entertain patients, considering the different prices offices can charge for the same work.

Consumers' CHECKBOOK finds a simple root canal, for example, can cost between $185 and $1,600 among area dentists, and prices can vary greatly for numbers of procedures. Even a first-time patient exam and cleaning can cost as low as $29 or as high as $362, with an average price of $176.

Paying more also doesn't ensure you'll be happier. CHECKBOOK finds some of the least expensive dentists can get very high ratings for professional skill and quality of work.

When getting references from friends to choose a dentist, CHECKBOOK recommends find out whether the dentist discusses good prevention habits. For example, does he or she have you demonstrate brushing and flossing to make sure you're doing them correctly?

Also, does the dentist ask you about problems and symptoms? Does he or she discuss your diagnosis and options? When work gets done, does it look good, is the bite right, are there rough edges, etc.?

Other considerations include the ease of making an appointment and the length of an office wait. For more recommendations, follow this link.

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(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)