What You Should Know Before Starting Orthodontic Treatment

When selecting an orthodontist, experience and training always count: There is no substitute for a well trained, experienced orthodontist. Make sure that your doctor was trained at an accredited university residency program and not at weekend motel courses. In order to become an orthodontist, a dentist must attend a two to three year orthodontic residency after dental school.

Only doctors that have completed a 2 or 3 year orthodontic training program can legally call themselves orthodontists. Orthodontists must restrict their practices to orthodontic treatment only. Doctors who provide services other than orthodontics are NOT ORTHODONTISTS! Align certification does not mean that doctor is an orthodontist.

It is important to understanding who is providing your care: In Virginia, general dentists are legally allowed to provide orthodontic treatment to patients provided that they do not misrepresent themselves as an orthodontist and as long as the treatment provided is at the same level of care that would be received in an orthodontic office. Minor orthodontic problems can be adequately treated by general dentists. As a consumer, you must make sure that the doctor that you select, whether it is an orthodontist or a general dentist, has sufficient training to correct your particular orthodontic problem. Orthodontists spends 2 to 3 years receiving advanced orthodontic training.

You GET what you pay for: An orthodontic fee that appears to be too good to be true, probably is.

You PAY for what you get: Orthodontic offices are businesses, and fees must cover business costs. "Extra or free" services, products and  prizes are incorporated into your treatment fee. In order to keep fees affordable, Dr. Staggers' office does not offer coupons, games, gimmicks, contests, prizes or scholarships that only benefit a few patients. Lower fees benefit every patient. Offices that offer free consultations and free records usually have higher orthodontic fees.

Orthodontists charge more for braces than general dentists: Every office has their own fees schedule. It pays to price shop.

Anyone that offers Invisalign® or is Invisalign® Certified is an orthodontist:  An orthodontist has completed a 2 to 3 year training program at an accredited University after the completion of dental school.  This training is advanced experience with braces and Invisalign®.  General dentists may offer Invisalign®, but they may not present themselves as orthodontists to the public. Only orthodontists may legally adverise their practices as "Specialist in Orthodontics" or "Practice Limited to Orthodontics".  If a doctor offers dental services other than orthodontics, he/she is not an orthodontist.  Be wary of misleading advertising in dentistry, especially in advertisements on the internet.  When selecting an Invisalign® doctor, ask about the doctor's training and the number of patients treated before you make a selection.

If your child teeth does not need orthodontic treatment or you need to wait for more teeth to erupt, Dr. Staggers will tell you this: Not everyone who comes to the orthodontic office needs braces. Some patient's teeth are normal with a good bite, and they don't need braces. Other patients are too young (with insufficient permanent teeth erupted) to have braces. If your child is too young for braces or doesn't need braces, Dr. Staggers will tell you.

When selecting an office, make sure that the office schedule is compatible with your schedule: Asking about the office hours and if they change during the summer months is a good idea. Also, ask how after hours emergencies are handled. All orthodontists realized that evening and weekend hours are convenient to patients and parents. However, delivering orthodontic treatment is a team effort between the orthodontist and the dental assistants. Most dental assistants are women with family responsibilities. Well trained, competent dental assistants are usually unwilling to give up their family time in order to work evening and weekend hours. Therefore, very few orthodontic offices offer evening and weekend hours.

Select an orthodontic office that focuses on the dental health of your child, not on entertaining your child: The purpose of orthodontic treatment is to improve the dental aesthetics and the dental health of your child. If dental treatment is the priority in the orthodontic office, more time and effort is spent on the treatment by the doctor and the staff, than on showing off video games, large screen TV's, DVD's and a fancy waiting room. The more entertaining the waiting room, the more time you are likely to spend there. Also, your treatment fees must cover the costs of a fancy waiting room.

Do your homework before you select an orthodontist: Orthodontic treatment requires a long term relationship (years) between the orthodontist, the patient and the parents. Spend some time making the right choice. Ask your friends what they liked or disliked their orthodontic treatment. If you feel pressured to commit to an office before you are ready to make that choice, do not sign up for treatment.

Don't use fast food criteria to select an orthodontist: Fast food is quick, convenient and cheap, and it fulfills a short-term need. Health care delivered in quick, convenient and cheap manner is like fast food, not good for you in the long-term.

Select an orthodontic office that fits your personality: Each orthodontic office has its own personality. Make sure the one that you select matches your personality and expectations.

First impressions count: If an orthodontic office doesn't meet your expectations on your first visit, it probably never will. Everyone is usually on their best behavior for a first meeting. If the office appears disorganized, rushed or running very late, this will likely be repeated during the entire orthodontic treatment.

If the doctor is too busy to answer your questions, he/she is too busy to be your orthodontist: select another office.

It is important to know who is delivering your orthodontic care: Dr. Staggers places all of the braces, does all of the orthodontic adjustments and removes all of the braces. Your orthodontic treatment is delivered by the doctor, not by a dental assistant.

New technology and high technology are great, but the what matter most is the skill and knowledge of the doctor that uses it: All orthodontic offices use modern technology when selecting orthodontic brackets, orthodontic equipment, wires and other appliances. However, promoting 3D imaging, high tech brackets and high tech wires in office advertising is a marketing tool and does not represent superior treatment results or make treatment time shorter.

Completion of orthodontic treatment does not guarantee a lifetime of perfectly straight teeth: All patients experience some shifting of the teeth after orthodontic treatment. For most patients, this shifting is minor and can be minimized by wearing retainers.

Treatment times are determined by the type and the severity of the dental problems, and therefore, are similar for all orthodontic offices: An estimated treatment time that appears to be too good to be true, probably is.

Different doctors may approach orthodontic treatment differently: How a doctor treats an orthodontic problems depends on his/her training and experience. Different treatment approaches can still produce beautiful orthodontic results.

Not every child needs two phases of orthodontic treatment: Children with significant orthodontic problems at an early age (6 to 9 years old) may require two phases of orthodontic treatment. The goals of phase I (interceptive) treatment are to improve growth discrepancies between the upper and lower jaws, to correct immediate dental problems that may be present (crossbites, open bites, severe crowding, etc.) and to minimize the severity of the developing malocclusion. After phase I treatment, a child may need a second phase of treatment at a later time once the majority of permanent teeth have erupted. Phase II usually involves a full set of braces (upper and lower) to align the teeth and perfect the bite (occlusion). Whether or not a child needs a second phase of orthodontic treatment depends on the size and position of the teeth that erupt, the manner in which the teeth fit together, the effectiveness of phase I treatment and the dental expectations of the child and the parents. Successful completion of phase I treatment does not guarantee that teeth will erupt in perfect alignment and good occlusion, but it may make phase II optional. However, if the child and parents desire perfect tooth alignment and an ideal bite, a second phase of orthodontic treatment is usually necessary. Not every child requires two phases of orthodontic treatment. Mild orthodontic problems can be treated with a single phase of orthodontic treatment. Severe orthodontic problems that are treated with two phases of orthodontic treatment may produce more aesthetic and more stable orthodontic results than if only one phase of treatment is done.  Dr. Staggers will tell you at your consultation whether or not your child could benefit from two phases of orthodontic treatment.

Online ratings may be deceptive: Online ratings may not reflect an the actual performance of an orthodontic office. Negative ratings may be generated from competitors and their employees rather than from actual orthodontic patients. Positive ratings may be generated by online reputation companies that are paid to submit positive ratings rather than from actual orthodontic patients. Online Reputation Companies are big business in today's internet marketplace.  Businesses with hundreds of ratings are likely utilizing Online Reputation Companies.  Also, anyone with a computer and internet access can write a review. Be aware that the review that you are reading may be the opinion of an eight year old or someone that is not an actual patient. Offices may run contests or offer gifts in order to solicit positive reviews.

Understand what is important: There is a new trend developed by some orthodontic bracket manufactures and clear aligner manufacturers to market orthodontics appliances, brackets and aligners directly to consumers. The marketing message put forth by these companies is that the brackets, appliances and the aligners are what is most important in providing orthodontic treatment and that the orthodontist is a minor or not even necessary option. This is a misleading, dangerous message. Brackets, aligners and appliances are orthodontic tools and are not magic. What is important is the skill and the experience of the orthodontist. Skilled professionals are able to use many different tools in different situations to achieve the desired results. No one bracket/clear aligner/appliance is right for every patient. The role of the orthodontist is to evaluate each individual patient and use the appropriate bracket/aligner/appliance to meet the needs of that patient.  Do it yourself dentistry using mail order products is dangerous!