Deciding to pursue orthodontic treatment for yourself or your child is an important decision that will have long-lasting results. Because the work often takes years to perform and is so consequential, you want to carefully consider which treatment provider you work with.
There are many factors to consider when selecting an orthodontist, and the decision has to be one you feel comfortable with. However, you can narrow your list of prospective candidates significantly by talking to people and doing your own research.
Ask for Recommendations
If you perform a simple Google search for orthodontists in your area, you are likely to be overwhelmed by the number of options listed, and it can be difficult to know where to start. The easiest launching point is to ask friends, family members and co-workers about their experiences with orthodontists in your area. The more people you ask the better, especially if your inquiry results in recurring names being mentioned.
If you don’t feel that you have a sufficient pool of people to give you recommendations, you can find patient testimonials online. Many orthodontists will include them on their websites, but of course, those generally relay only positive experiences. They are worth reading, but exploring unfiltered reviews on impartial sites can help balance your perspective. This is especially true when you can find a substantial number of reviews and observe trends. Places like Google, Yelp, ZocDoc and Healthgrades are among the possibilities to explore.
Your general dentist also is a great resource to consult about orthodontic care. He or she probably shares patients with certain orthodontists frequently. Choosing an orthodontist your dentist is familiar with can make the treatment process run more smoothly as the two offices communicate with each other about your progress. This is most important if you are dealing with a complex case that is going to require collaboration between your dentist and orthodontist.
Think About Logistics
You probably have a busy schedule to manage, and possibly children’s schedules as well. Therefore, the location of your orthodontist’s office, as well as business hours, are important to consider.
Some orthodontic practices operate in multiple locations within an area to make travel to and from appointments easier for patients. This can also simplify the scheduling process if you are willing to attend more than one location. When one office does not have openings at the day and time you need, a different one might. And because all offices are under the same practice, your treatment provider will have access to your records and treatment plan.
Insurance considerations, pricing and payment plans are also important when selecting an orthodontist. You will need to inquire with your insurance company as to whether your plan covers all or part of your orthodontic treatment. Most insurance companies do not cover orthodontics when treatment is not medically necessary, meaning there would have to be a medical reason for getting braces in addition to cosmetic ones. Many states, including Maryland, consider pediatric dental care to be an essential health benefit and require that healthcare plans include insurance for medically-necessary orthodontic work. You will need to consult your plan to make sure you opted into that feature when you signed up for the insurance. If your insurer is willing to finance the braces for you or your child, you will need to find an orthodontist who accepts that particular company.
If insurance is not available, consider whether you will be able to pay upfront for orthodontic work or whether you will need a payment plan. Most orthodontist offices will offer payment plans subject to a satisfactory credit score, but the terms of the plans can vary based on the practice. Office fees can vary greatly depending on the length and complexity of the treatment, so make sure you understand the projected costs and payment schedules before deciding on where to receive treatment.
Consider Education and Experience
Once you have a short list of orthodontists who you are considering, do a little research. Find out about their educational backgrounds, including where they went to school and completed their training, whether they have received continuing education or specialty training, and the number of years they have been practicing. Oftentimes much of this information will be on the website for the practice, but it also is easy to find online.
It’s also important to consider whether the orthodontist you select is a licensed member of the American Association of Orthodontists. All members of the American Association of Orthodontists have graduated from accredited dental schools and orthodontic graduate programs, and they have been required by the state to maintain a minimum amount of continuing education hours. The AAO website features a provider search page where you can research licensed members in your area.
Another impressive credential is board certification, which means your orthodontist has gone through a competitive residency at a CODA-accredited orthodontic program for an additional two or three years to be trained specifically in orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics. The ABO board certification credential is a voluntary credit that orthodontists can pursue. Lack of this credential does not mean your orthodontist isn’t qualified, but it can be a factor to consider especially if you don’t know much deeper information about the person or practice.
Think About Treatment Options
Braces are no longer limited to metal brackets and wires. Most orthodontic patients will be candidates for other types of braces, including clear aligners, clear and tooth-colored brackets, and brackets that are applied behind the teeth. If you are interested in an alternative to traditional braces, make sure the orthodontist you are considering offers multiple options and has experience using newer braces technologies.
The orthodontist won’t be able to confirm that any one method is an option for you until she performs an examination, but it will be helpful to know what options the practice offers if you are considering one of these newer types of orthodontia. Also consider your budget when choosing an orthodontic provider, as most alternative methods are more expensive than traditional metal brackets.
Schedule a Consultation
If you’ve found several profiles of orthodontists who are highly recommended, well-credentialed, and are convenient and affordable, it’s wise to meet them in person before signing on for years of orthodontic care.
Many offices will offer a free consultation, where you will have a chance to meet the service provider, see the office space and ask questions. Take advantage of this excellent opportunity. A great relationship with your practitioner is an important part of the treatment process, so you want to be sure the person you select is a good match for you in terms of communication and bedside manner.