How to Choose an Orthodontist
Orthodontic treatment is more affordable than ever, and advanced technology has created an array of options and possibilities for straightening teeth and aligning the jaw. Most forms of treatment are performed by an orthodontist, who specializes in the alignment of the jaws and the position of the teeth. When choosing an orthodontist, it is important to select a reputable individual with the knowledge, skills, and experience that will meet your orthodontic needs.
What Is an Orthodontist?
There are specialists in dentistry just as there are specialists in medicine. However, only about six percent of dentists are orthodontists. Orthodontists dedicate their professional lives to diagnosing, preventing, and correcting misaligned teeth and jaws. After four years of dental school, an orthodontist must complete a minimum of two years of study in a full-time university-based orthodontic residency program accredited by the American Dental Association. Only those who have completed this extra training may be legitimately called "orthodontists." About 95 percent of the approximately 15,000 American orthodontists belong to the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO).
In their residency training, orthodontists continue to expand the skills they need to manage the movement of teeth (orthodontics) and guide facial development (dentofacial orthopedics). Their studies include oral disease, biomedical science, biomechanics, and the many orthodontic techniques and treatment options now available.
Finding the Best Orthodontist
The first step involved in finding a qualified orthodontist is to determine whether you might need an orthodontist who specializes in pediatric (children's) orthodontics or adult orthodontics. Such specialization is not required, but it may have an effect on how much experience an orthodontist has with the type of treatment you or your child may need.
Arrange a consultation and do not hesitate to ask questions, such as:
- How long has the orthodontist been practicing?
- How many patients has he/she treated as an orthodontist?
- Is he/she a member of the AAO? If not, why?
- What services are provided? Clear braces? Pediatric orthodontics?
- Does the orthodontist have any affiliations with other dental professionals in the area, for example, general dentists, oral surgeons, endodontists, periodontists? Is he/she affiliated with a local hospital or clinic?
- How are orthodontic emergencies handled?
- Are evening and weekend appointments available?
- What types of financing are available?
The best orthodontists will answer all of your questions fully and patiently.