What to Look for in an Orthodontist for Children
As a parent, you want your children to enjoy life without the embarrassing and health-threatening problem of crooked teeth. Getting orthodontic care for your kids from an early age can pave the way for a lifetime of strong oral health – and an awesome smile.
The best orthodontic care will bring multiple benefits for your kids, including:
- Maintaining their self-confidence.
- Improving oral hygiene.
- Preventing or fixing speech problems.
- Preventing future issues such as jaw disorders.
If you follow the advice of the American Association of Orthodontists1 (AAO), you’ll schedule an orthodontic evaluation for your child by the time they’re seven, even if no problems are apparent.
At this age, your child’s jaw is still growing, and it’s the best time to catch orthodontic issues before they develop into serious problems. If a potential issue is spotted, the orthodontist can continue to monitor your child’s oral development and plan options for future treatment.
But what should you look for in an orthodontist for your children? There are four key areas to help you find the best orthodontist for your kids:
- Orthodontic qualifications.
- Orthodontic experience.
- Range of orthodontic treatments.
- Payment options.
Make Sure Your Child’s Orthodontist Really is an Orthodontist!
The first thing to consider when considering orthodontic treatment for your kids is whether their potential dentist is a qualified orthodontist – a member of the American Association of Orthodontists, for example.
When it comes to orthodontics, not all dentists are equal. General dentists may offer orthodontic services but they don’t have the extensive specialized training that orthodontists complete.
An orthodontist will have graduated from dental school just like a general dentist, learning skills such as fillings and extraction procedures and professional teeth cleaning.
Then the budding orthodontic specialist undertakes a further two or three years of training following their four years of dental school, in an orthodontic education program approved by the American Dental Association (ADA).
This extra training takes the form of a residency and covers both clinical and academic education, plus treating orthodontic patients under the supervision of orthodontic experts.
Check Out the Orthodontist’s Experience and Skill Set
Just as not all dentists are equal, neither are all orthodontists. Even among qualified orthodontists, skill levels and techniques can vary, and some will be more experienced than others.
Ask your children’s perspective orthodontist how long they’ve been plying their trade as dental specialists and whether they can show you before-and-after photos of young patients.
Parents’ reviews on the practice’s website can also be helpful during your research, especially if they relate to an orthodontic procedure you think your child may need.
If you schedule a consultation for your youngster with the orthodontist, they should be able to produce a treatment plan after evaluating your child’s orthodontic needs. If this plan differs significantly from others you’ve obtained, ask the orthodontist why, and what makes their treatment better.
An initial consultation is usually free, and it also gives you the opportunity to assess whether your children will feel relaxed and happy with the orthodontic office.
Does the Orthodontist Offer a Range of Treatments?
Finding an orthodontist with experience in different techniques to correct misaligned teeth will enable you to get the treatment that’s right for your youngster. For instance, if you’re seeking orthodontic care for a teenager, the Invisalign system of plastic aligners could be a good option.
Invisalign Teen2 holds many advantages over traditional braces, and young patients love the fact that these aligners are practically invisible, more comfortable than metal appliances, and, being removable, allow them to eat and drink what they want.
However, Invisalign may not be suitable in all cases, particularly with younger kids. If it turns out your child isn’t a good candidate for Invisalign, you won’t have to look elsewhere if the orthodontist offers alternative treatments like metal and ceramic braces.
Can the Orthodontist Make it Easier for Me to Pay the Bill?
Getting your kids’ teeth straightened can be an expensive job, and a good orthodontist will always be upfront about the total cost of treatment. Ask what credit cards and dental insurance plans they accept and whether they offer payment plans that allow you to spread out the cost over time with affordable monthly payments.
Some orthodontists may also offer third-party financing such as CareCredit or special in-house finance. If you find an orthodontist specialist with a range of payment options, the cost of treatment shouldn’t prevent you from getting the best orthodontic treatment for your children.
Soft Skills Are Important, Too
A qualified, experienced orthodontist will be able to provide your kids with the foundation for a lifetime of optimum oral health. It’s also important to take time to find an orthodontic practice that both you and your kids are comfortable with.
It’s estimated that one in three kids need braces, and, according to the American Association of Orthodontists, youngsters make up 80 percent of orthodontic patients.
While the clinical expertise achieved through extra training is critical for an orthodontist, looking after young patients calls for a special approach, and soft skills such as compassion and empathy are also important to put young patients at ease.
Making Kids’ Orthodontic Treatment Fun!
A good children’s orthodontist will not only strive to ensure their young patients get a comfortable experience but will do their best to make sure your kids have a fun time at the dental office.
On the serious side, they won’t just be looking at your children’s teeth but will evaluate the whole structure of facial muscles and bones to determine the most appropriate orthodontic treatment. Your kids’ orthodontist should also be able to offer you advice about their oral healthcare at home.