Choosing the right orthodontist for you can be a daunting task. Create a shortlist of orthodontists you are considering for treatment, and then schedule consultations to help you narrow your list.
Most orthodontists offer low-cost consultations, and they help you get a better sense of the office environment and staff. Plus, a consultation gives you a chance to interview treatment professionals and ask any questions you may have about the process. The consultation is a great way to ease anxiety about your first appointment. Scheduling a consultation before you choose your treatment provider will ensure that you are comfortable with the orthodontic team you select and that you’re confident in the care you receive.
Meet Your Treatment Provider
Because orthodontic treatment is a significant investment of time and finances, it is important that you have a great relationship with your provider. This means that you will want to be satisfied with his or her qualifications, as well as the treatment approach and bedside manner.
Think about the qualities that you most desire in the person who is treating you. These will not be the same for everyone. Maybe the orthodontist’s years in practice aren’t as important to you as how well she communicates or how friendly her approach is. Or, perhaps personality is not as much of a concern and you are most interested in the depth and breadth of his or her credentials.
Meeting the treatment provider will give you insight into all these elements. And if you have a case that is complicated or more unusual, it will be important to ask the orthodontist about her experience treating cases like yours. Communication of the treatment plan also is important. You want to make sure the provider is listening to your concerns and directly addressing them. By the end of the consultation, the orthodontist should outline a clear treatment recommendation (although a detailed treatment plan will come later).
Many options for orthodontic treatment exist. Your consultation is the perfect time to review with the orthodontist the choices he thinks are appropriate for your situation, as well as to ask questions about cost. After the orthodontist examines you, he will be able to determine whether you are likely to be a good candidate for various braces options.
The orthodontic treatment option you choose will in part depend on your goals during treatment. Before your consultation, think about what you value most. If appearance is your top factor, several options exist that make braces nearly or completely invisible. If it’s durability you’re after because your teen is prone to losing and breaking things, metal brackets are accidents’ toughest opponent. If the ability to eat, drink, brush and floss normally are your chief concerns, Invisalign offers removable braces that will allow you to complete those tasks effortlessly. Talk about your treatment priorities during your consultation to find the best treatment plan and orthodontist for you.
The consultation will give you a good sense of approximately how long you will need to wear braces. Just remember that a more in-depth examination will likely be needed to give a definitive answer, which may change as your treatment progresses. Braces tend to be worn anywhere from one to three years. The biggest determinant of treatment length is the severity of your case. Age is also a factor, as average treatment length for adults tends to run longer than for children or teens.
Finally, the consultation gives you the opportunity to review technology that will be used during your treatment process. The tools and technology your orthodontist uses to plan for and monitor treatment is essential to achieving the best and most efficient outcomes. Providers should be happy to tell you about the modern imaging technologies they are using.
Discuss Payment Options
After you receive your initial exam and discuss probable treatment plans with the orthodontist, you will have a better idea about the type of treatment you want to pursue and its duration. Armed with this information (though remember, you only received a preliminary exam and it’s not set in stone), you can begin to discuss financing options.
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. The office staff will be able to explain different types of payment plans, as well as check whether your insurance will cover any part of the treatment. Office fees can vary greatly depending on the length and complexity of the treatment, so make sure you understand the projected costs and how the practice will require payment.
Ask About Adjustments
Though the day braces go on and the day they come off might be the ones you are focused on, the time in between is when all the work happens. Make sure to ask potential providers about the regular appointments that you or your child will need to attend to have the braces adjusted and progress assessed. Most orthodontists will want to see you for a check-up and adjustment every four to six weeks, but that could vary based on your specific case.
At adjustment appointments, the orthodontist will check on your teeth’s progress. She will also replace the elastic bands on each bracket and may additionally remove and replace the wire if you’re wearing traditional metal braces. If you are wearing clear aligners, your orthodontist will make sure that they are doing their job properly. It may also be necessary for him to provide you with aligners that fit differently throughout the course of your treatment.
In most practices, the same orthodontist will visit with you at each of your appointments. However, sometimes in large practices, you could be seen by a different orthodontist at some appointments. At your consultation, you can clarify whether you will see the same provider or a different member of the orthodontic team at each visit.
Consider A Virtual Consultation
An in-person consultation is always the best option. The physical exam your orthodontist performs is essential to getting the most accurate information about treatment options, the treatment process and projected outcomes. However, for patients in potentially vulnerable populations, a virtual consultation can save several trips out in public–especially when you are considering multiple orthodontists and want a meeting with each.
For your virtual consultation to most closely mimic the real thing, you will need to recruit a friend or family member to take pictures of your mouth for you to share with the consulting clinician. When setting up your virtual consultation, the office should give you instructions for taking photographs of your face, mouth and teeth from several angles. During the consultation, the clinician will review these photos.
While all orthodontic offices should be taking careful precautions to minimize risks of COVID-19 transmission, the virtual consultation is a great time to ask about cleaning and other safety practices the office is using.
Preparing for the Consultation
The importance of making a list of questions and concerns in preparation for your consultation can’t be overstated. This is your chance to ask everything you want to know about braces and oral hygiene. Make sure that all your important questions are answered and concerns allayed so that you can determine the best orthodontist for you.
Your questions obviously will be very personal to you and your needs, but here are some that frequently come up during the consultation:
- How long will I need to wear braces?
- What happens if my treatment runs longer than my estimated time?
- How often will I need to come to the office for adjustments?
- How much discomfort will there be?
- What are your appointment cancellation and rescheduling policies?
- What impact will my teenager’s wisdom teeth have on his treatment?
- Can my son or daughter play sports with braces?
- What happens if I have, or have had, periodontal disease?
- Will my speech be affected by my new braces?
- What foods should I avoid?
- Who can I contact in case of an emergency during my treatment?
- How will my oral hygiene regimen change during my treatment?