What to Look for in an Orthodontist
If you or your child has problems caused by crooked teeth, it helps if you know what to look for in an orthodontist.
You may think that any dentist offering orthodontic services must be an orthodontist. That’s not the case. The difference between a general dentist and an orthodontist is comprehensive specialized training beyond dental school.
General dentists who provide orthodontic services may have attended a short course on realigning teeth. This gives them nowhere near the level of expertise and hands-on experience of a bona fide orthodontist.
They may even be unaware of how repositioning teeth can affect bone health and airways. Another problem is that a general dentist may not have access to the specialist tools that a properly trained orthodontist uses.
No matter how good your general dentist is, they simply cannot provide the same level of orthodontic care that a good orthodontic specialist can offer.
The Difference Between a General Dentist and an Orthodontic Specialist
General dentists and orthodontists alike will have gone through four years of dental school, learning various aspects of dentistry such as how to clean patients’ teeth, dealing with cavities, and handling tooth extractions.
Repositioning of teeth and bite function is an entirely different matter, and to become a qualified orthodontist requires a further two to three years of instruction in an orthodontic education program approved by the American Dental Association1 (ADA).
Orthodontists are occasionally called upon to fix the orthodontic mistakes of general dentists. Better dentists will refer patients with orthodontic problems to an orthodontic specialist.
However, choosing the right orthodontist for yourself or your kids goes deeper than looking for someone who has undergone extra training and is board certified by the American Board of Orthodontics2 (ABO).
Questions to Ask an Orthodontist
Once you’re satisfied the dentist you’re considering is actually an orthodontic expert, as opposed to a general dentist, there are other things to look for in an orthodontist.
Like most branches of medical science, orthodontics is an evolving progression as research produces better treatment methods. Ask the orthodontist whether they stay up to speed with advances in orthodontic techniques so they can offer you the best, safest and fastest treatment options.
Other questions you might like to ask your prospective orthodontist – or yourself – include the following.
Do they offer free consultations?
Your initial consultation with your orthodontist not only enables you to get a professional opinion on your smile, it allows you to begin to get know them and their team before committing to treatment. A good orthodontist will carry out new patient consultations free of charge, provide you with a detailed treatment recommendation, and answer any questions you might have.
Do they offer different types of orthodontic treatment?
There are many different types of orthodontic treatments available nowadays, so you don’t have to limit yourself by seeing an orthodontist who only offers a couple of options.
The best orthodontists will offer a variety of treatment choices, such as:
- Conventional braces.
- Invisalign3 and Invisalign Teen clear plastic aligners.
- Damon braces.
- Incognito braces.
Does your orthodontist enjoy a good reputation?
A reputable orthodontist will have past and current patients who’re happy to recommend them. Take a look at the patient reviews page of the practice’s website. You could also ask around family and friends to see whether they’ve been treated by the orthodontist and what their experiences were like.
Does the dental office put you at ease?
What to look for in an orthodontist includes the practice environment. Is the waiting area clean and welcoming? Are the office staff approachable? If you have a child who needs orthodontic treatment, is the practice a family-friendly one that tries to make dental visits fun for kids?
What payment options does the practice offer?
Find out whether you can pay affordable monthly installments to spread the cost of your treatment. If you have a dental insurance plan, check whether the practice will accept it. Does the office accept CareCredit? A trustworthy orthodontist will explain your treatment fees and payment options4.
Is the practice conveniently located?
Find out how long it will take you to get to your orthodontist from your workplace or home. If you have children, is the office near their school?
Finding an Orthodontist for the Whole Family
Research indicates that adults are just as likely as children to need orthodontic treatment. If you find an orthodontist who treats both adults and kids, you’ll have the convenience of a single practice that can take care of the orthodontic needs of your whole family.
Choosing the right orthodontist for your family can ensure every appointment is a positive experience. A family orthodontic practice will be able to understand and respond to the diverse orthodontic problems of you and your kids.
It’s also important to find an orthodontist that you and your children are comfortable with, so you feel free to ask any questions and voice any concerns. A good orthodontist will go the extra mile to ensure you and your kids feel comfortable and confident about the care you’re receiving.
The American Association of Orthodontists5 (AAO) advises parents to schedule an orthodontic assessment for kids by the time they’re seven. Detecting potential problems early can avoid the need for more complex treatment in the future.
The Best Orthodontist is One You Can Trust
It pays to take some time in considering what to look for in an orthodontist. The two of you are likely to be long-term partners in an important aspect of your oral health care.
A good orthodontist will have that all-important personal touch, treating you as an individual, not just a patient number. If you get a good overall first impression from an orthodontist, they’re probably the right one for you.
They will put you at ease and show a desire to build a relationship with you while demonstrating a commitment to patient care and the highest levels of professionalism. Above all, what to look for in an orthodontist is someone you can trust.