10 Things to know before selecting an Orthodontist


1. Q. What is the difference between an orthodontist and a dentist who does braces or Invisalign?

A. An orthodontist is a dentist, who after graduating from dental school, completes an additional 2 year full-time university based education in an accredited orthodontic residency program. By learning about tooth movement (orthodontics) and guidance of facial development (dentofacial orthopedics), orthodontists are the specifically educated experts in dentistry to straighten teeth and align jaws. Orthodontists limit their practices to orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics. This means that orthodontic treatment is what they do, and all they do. Many family dentists can legally do Invisalign or braces after taking weekend courses. They do not necessarily have the knowledge or ability to fully evaluate your situation to properly diagnose and treat your particular situation. 

2. Q. Are you an independent orthodontist or an associate in a corporate office?

A. Orthodontics is a long-term commitment with a possibility of a patient starting at age 7 or 8 and being followed until they graduate from high school. A salaried orthodontist in a corporate office may move on before your orthodontic treatment is completed. This may result in an increase in treatment time, an undesirable orthodontic result, additional costs, and or the need to find another orthodontist to finish treatment. By choosing an orthodontist who owns his or her practice, you can be more assured of a consistent result due to continuity of care.


3. Q. Do you have one office or multiple offices that you go to?

If you are seeing an orthodontist who has multiple offices, the other offices may not be convenient to you or the times scheduled at the office near you may have limited treatment times.  If there is only one office you may be able to get the most consistent care and help for any emergency would never far away.


4. Q. Do you have office hours to work with my family’s busy schedule?

A. Orthodontic offices should understand that many families have busy schedules and may have two working parents.  Check the office hours of the office you are contemplating using and ask about scheduling patient visits. The office may be open, but there may be no doctor around or no accommodation for that emergency appointment.  Some offices schedule early morning or after work, or even some Saturdays for busy families.  Scheduling is very important, so make sure that the office has treatment times which work for you.


5. Q. At what age should my child be evaluated by an orthodontist?

A. The American Association of Orthodontics recommends all children have their first orthodontic visit at the age of seven. By age seven, enough permanent teeth have come in and enough jaw growth has occurred that the orthodontist can identify current problems, anticipate future problems and alleviate parents’ concerns if all seems normal. An orthodontic evaluation at age 7 enables the orthodontist to detect and evaluate problems, advise if treatment will be necessary, and determine the best time for that patient to be treated. Many offices don't  charge for this evaluation appointment and have lower cost for early interceptive orthodontic care. If your child is not ready for orthodontic treatment, the doctor will put them on orthodontic observation and wait until the appropriate time to start. Many offices don't charge for the observation visits as well.  Be sure to ask what the office's policy is regarding this service.


6. Q. Do I need to be referred by my dentist before I come to an orthodontist?

A. To seek treatment from an orthodontic specialist, you do not need to be referred by a general dentist. In fact, many of the patients that are treated by Aurora Orthodontics & TMJ were referred by previous or existing patients because of our commitment to great results and patient care.


7. Q. Are braces just for kids? Can adults have orthodontics as well?

A. Many advances in orthodontics as well as changes in public perception have made adult orthodontics very common. Tooth colored braces (ceramic brackets), and Invisalign (clear plastic trays that move teeth) are all options for today’s aesthetic adults. Special techniques can be used that can give a beautiful full smile without the removal of any permanent teeth.  (Please see question #9)  A healthy attractive smile can enhance your career as well as your self-esteem and happiness!

8. Q. Are you using digital x-rays and 3D imaging when indicated?

A. Modern dental offices have been using digital x-rays for the last 15-20 years or so. They significantly cut down on the amount of radiation that the patient receives. They also are able to be sent to other offices such as your family dentist by email. Offices are now using digital x-ray system and increasingly have “Paperless” offices. In the last few years 3D imaging has taken the dental profession by storm and can give a much more accurate picture of the teeth and visualize where they have to be moved. A few offices, but growing number of offices have been equipped with this type of technology.  Many  use x-ray labs for this service.  The use of digital x-rays and the availability of 3D scans are good questions to ask an office you are considering.

9. Q. Do you do consistently do treatment without the removal of any permanent teeth?

A. Modern state of the art orthodontics uses techniques called Dentofacial Orthopedics, which can virtually eliminate the need for the removal of permanent teeth, even in adult patients  These techniques were developed in Europe over the past 80 years. Many offices are limited in their knowledge of how to use these techniques, so make sure you are seeing an orthodontist who is well versed in these techniques.  You may save yourself from the removal of permanent teeth and even surgery.


10. Q. I understand that the jaw joints (TMJ) can act up before, during or because of orthodontic treatment. Are you equipped to treat this if it is a problem?

A. Many offices that perform orthodontic treatment do not have the knowledge to treat TMJ Dysfunction when it occurs, either before or during treatment. This is very important because as many as a third of all people will develop a TMJ disorder at some time during their life. If orthodontic treatment is not performed correctly it can lead to TMJ Dysfunction with resultant headaches and painful jaw joints. You need to question the doctor at the office you are thinking about using so you can rest assured that these problems will be handled correctly if they do arise.

Article by
Denver Orthodontist