Moving to a new city? Don't wait for a killer toothache before tracking down a dentist.

Get started with the search soon - and be picky. Selecting any new health-care professional is an important, but difficult, task. Rather than choosing haphazardly, or by the size of the phone book ad, follow these recommendations from Better Homes and Gardens:- Contact the local dental society for suggestions or ask a respected physician or pharmacist.

- Seek input from trusted friends.

- Ask a dental specialist. Through referrals, oral surgeons, periodontists and orthodontists see a variety of other dentists' work.

- Visit the prospective dentist's office. If this makes the dentist nervous, it probably means something.

- Look for a clean, friendly office with flexible hours. Also, find a location that's close to home or a place of work.

- Ask if the dentist takes proper care to prevent the passing of serious contagious diseases from one patient to another. The dentist and the staff should always wear protective gloves and masks during your treatment.

- Find out if the dentist practices preventive dentistry, such as regular checkups, which may save time and money later on.

- Finally, ask these follow-up questions: Do they have a reliable means of reminding patients of regular checkups? Does the practice consider a patient's overall health history when planning treatment? What happens in an emergency or if help is needed when the office is closed? How well do they explain treatment plans and how open are they to discussing fees? Do they offer help with insurance forms?

If the answer to each is yes, a good dentist has probably been found.