The great Chinese educator and philosopher Confucius once said, “Behind every smile, there are teeth.” No wonder we all care so much for our choppers. In the course of time, however, the usual brushing and home remedy routines that used to be enough cease to be effective in addressing certain dental issues. In our need for answers, we go to the professionals. But wait, should we see a dentist or an orthodontist? How do these two differ? We’re probably more familiar with dentists, but what can we expect from an orthodontist? These are questions commonly raised when talking about dental care, and we’re going to deal with them and related dental matters like treatment options, braces, and Invisalign™ in this article.
1. Let’s start with the basics and see what distinguishes an orthodontist from a general dentist. An orthodontist is basically a dentist but gained specialization by taking up an additional few years of a residency program in orthodontics. Orthodontists are the specialists to-go-to when it comes to treatments like braces because of their more advanced knowledge and better exposure to orthodontic disciplines. This doesn’t mean though that general dentist is prohibited from performing Invisalign™ or some orthodontics. As a matter of fact, they do so, particularly those general practitioners who have completed short orthodontic courses. But generally, they confine their focus to treatments like cleaning, fillings, implants, bridges, and crowns, which are all part of restorative dentistry.
2. Now that the orthodontist-dentist distinction is out of the way, you may be wondering how you are going to recognize an orthodontic specialist if not all dentists are orthodontists. You do this in an almost effortless manner, actually, as you need only to look around once inside a dental office or clinic for things like stationery, business cards, or association or organization logos that signify official membership, like the ones of the American Association of Orthodontics or the American Board of Orthodontics. Otherwise, politely approaching and asking the receptionist or person-in-charge should work perfectly too.
3. How important is it for an orthodontist to be experienced in early-age orthodontic treatment? If you are bringing your child below 7 of age to an orthodontist upon the recommendation of a pediatrician or a dentist, it is imperative that you see a specialist who has a solid track record in handling very young patients that do not yet have all of their adult teeth. It may not be that easy to find one as there are as many orthodontists who would not touch such young patients as there are orthodontists who would. The American Association of Orthodontics advises parents to have their children checked for Orthodontic Evaluation at age 7. But in special dental cases where much younger kids suffer from having narrow upper jaws, crowded teeth, and habits like severe mouth breathing and finger over- or under-biting, there is a need for immediate attention and treatment. Extreme care and diligence are vital in the choice of an orthodontist under these circumstances.
4. Another important thing to take note of would be the tech-savviness of your chosen orthodontist. The field of orthodontics had come a long way since the old days, and modern technology, especially when it comes to braces, now means less patient discomfort, faster treatment, and better results. These days, braces can be self-ligating, made of clear ceramic, and with virtually invisible aligners. Ensure that you go with an orthodontist who has a progressive mindset; one who always upgrades and stays abreast with all that is new in his specialized discipline. Telltale signs to watch out for would be things like an all-digital equipment setup, a virtually paperless office environment, and a web-based or I.T.-maintained communication system.
5. We spoke of invisible aligners earlier as one of the latest trends in braces technology, and by that, we refer to Invisalign™.
Invisalign™ is a clear-aligner treatment that works as an alternative to metal braces. It is made up of clear removable aligners that a patient is made to wear 22 hours a day. Every couple of weeks, a new set of aligners are given to the patient. Teeth move into the prescribed position gradually every time a new set is introduced. Strict cooperation is required from both patient and orthodontist to ensure the success of the Invisalign™ treatment, which, on average, takes 13.5 months.
A common misconception relating to this treatment is that Invisalign™ takes care of everything. The truth is Invisalign™ is only about the manufacturing process and software imaging part of the whole treatment equation. Successful results, for a great part, still rest on the qualification and experience of administering orthodontist. For this reason – and this cannot be overstated – you need to be very careful and precise when choosing your orthodontist.
6. Fees are another matter that you need to be upfront about when dealing with an orthodontist. The important thing to note in this regard is that you are charged a comprehensive fee that covers everything – from appointments to post-treatment retainer checks. There should be paperwork to substantiate your fees-related agreement, though you should watch out for any hidden fees on said paperwork that may charge you for questionable extras. In the event that there are indeed separate fees for things like x-rays or retainers, ensure that those charges are clearly indicated on the agreement to be signed.
7. Speaking of fees, another natural monetary concern will have to do with your ability to pay for orthodontic services. Orthodontists are expected to offer payment plans that should work to a patient’s favor. Financing options can be interest-free, in-house, or one that is provided by a third party. But whatever the scheme, rest assured that you will be offered affordable figures and terms that are within your budget. Pick the payment option that works best for you, and you’re on your way to making one of the best investments of your life where the dividends come in the form of greater confidence and self-esteem.
When you are all done with your treatment, remember that your retainers are going to be your best friend. Wear them nightly, so your teeth remain aligned and looking great for a long, long time. Pledge actually to do that, and your new smile will forever be there.