First of all, choose the right doctor
In this state, it is legal for general dentists to offer and provide orthodontic treatment to their patients (irrespective of the intensity of their orthodontic education). So, in my opinion, you should be clear on the differences between the levels of training, experience, and expertise that exist between a general dentist with a special interest in orthodontics and a university trained board eligible or certified orthodontic specialist. Short answer: the orthodontic specialist made the commitment of a full time 2 or 3 year postgraduate residency in our specialty, earned a clinical certificate (and a masters degree –credentials: DDS, MS if they did a research project and thesis).
In comparison, the level of training for a general dentist with a special interest in orthodontics is based on the minimal dental school curriculum exposure to basic orthodontics and the weekend courses they have attended.
The orthodontic specialist has limited his practice to orthodontics alone, whereas the general dentist also provides other services. In my mind, the compounding of limited specialty practice with a 2 or 3 year post graduate residency experience distills down to a substantial difference in levels of experience and expertise.
Here is another way to look at this. If you needed a quadruple bypass, who would you choose to do it—an experienced, well-trained cardiac surgeon or the family doctor?
Secondly, follow these guidelines:
Do not base your decision on price but on value.
I believe the general erroneous assumption made by the public is that most doctors’ training, philosophy and results should be the same because our profession is regulated by the state. Remember appearances sometimes can deceive. And guess what? In our community, fees don’t deviate all that much! So the question is: Do you want to be in a great practice and have a very positive experience for you or your child or do you want to save a few dollars a month? May I suggest a checklist to help you choose?
If the conditions on the following checklist have been met, congratulations; odds are that you have made a great investment in your oral health. You have found your new orthodontic home.
You have been referred by another patient(s) who had a very positive experience in that office
The doctor can show you similar cases with pleasing results (there are before and after examples on our blog and website)
You feel that there is very good communication and direct and frequent interaction with the doctor
The staff is very friendly and caring
The office is conveniently located and offers office hours throughout the week and runs on time
The office implements contemporary technologies and infection controls
The office helps you maximize your insurance benefits and offers flexible no interest and no down payment options, and cash discounts
Choose the right office based on the above checklist/criteria–do not get bogged down in terminology or types of appliances used.
There are fads in orthodontics, just like in other professions and industries. Decisions should be based on good diagnosis and treatment planning not on marketing fads, or using the latest, greatest widget. I frequently see this kind of thing happen when the general dentist gives the patient/parent several referral cards; the patient dutifully gathers multiple diverse opinions and then becomes very confused. Instead, use my checklist. It will help, I promise.
Make sure your child is on board and encourage them to cooperate and follow directions to maximize results
I always tell my patients that a great patient and an average orthodontist can often get better results than the reverse. Meaning, this is all about team work folks! If you really want to get a great return on your investment, keep your kids on task with doing their part in treatment—compliance is paramount! Treatment always turns out better and usually moves along faster, if patients keep their appointments, keep the teeth, gums and braces clean, wear their rubber bands consistently, and are careful not to loosen the non-permanent adhesive that attaches the braces to the teeth.
In our office we have many incentives and rewards in place to encourage compliance and responsibility. However, if you can maintain tandem reward systems at home, the gains are more than doubled! The side benefit of this is the maturation and personal growth that occurs when patients take responsibility and become active participants in their treatment.
By Dr. Stephen Kineret