I am often asked by friends living outside Fort Worth, “How should I choose my orthodontist?” With as many dental specialties as there are and with insurance constantly changing, I am not surprised by this frequent request. The search can be overwhelming.
First, make sure the person that you are considering is actually an orthodontist and not simply a primary care dentist that does braces. Orthodontics is not just about beautiful smiles. It is a complex science that involves moving bone, bite alignment and longevity of function. Orthodontists are dentists who have completed a 4-year graduate program in dentistry to receive their DDS or DMD. They choose to continue their education for an additional 2-3 years by enrolling in a competitive residency at an accredited program specializing in orthodontics. To determine if the professional that you are considering for treatment is a specialist, look him or her up on the American Association of Orthodontists website. This site lists only specialists who have graduated from an accredited orthodontic program and belong to the AAO.
A board-certified orthodontist is an orthodontist who has voluntarily taken their specialty a step further. They have endured hundreds of additional hours of preparation to demonstrate the judgment, skills, and knowledge required for providing the highest level of patient care. They have achieved board certification through the American Board of Orthodontics, the only orthodontic specialty board recognized by the American Dental Association and in affiliation with the American Association of Orthodontists. Achieving board certification is the last step in a long and intensive educational experience to ultimately provide excellent patient care. To determine if the orthodontist that you are considering for treatment is board certified, look him or her up on the American Board of Orthodontics website. This site lists only orthodontists who have taken this extra step to become board certified.
The next place I would seek a referral would be from other SPECIALISTS in the area, especially oral surgeons. Although there are a lot of primary care dentists who might be helpful in your search, many of them are attempting orthodontics themselves. Oral surgeons and other specialists work with ALL orthodontists in their area. Thus, they are able to see and compare results and form an objective opinion. A primary care dentist may only work with a couple of orthodontists, but an oral surgeon typically works with dozens.
Another good source of information today is the internet. However, take the information you find there with a grain of salt. Practice websites and social media sites do not always accurately portray the quality of work the orthodontist provides. A bad orthodontist might have found an excellent website designer. On the other hand, an excellent orthodontist just might not be as technically savvy in today’s internet world. You should search for reviews on the orthodontists you are considering, but again realize that not all reviews are accurate. Happy patients usually don’t go out of their way to write reviews, but unhappy ones can’t wait to get their fingers to a computer. Some doctors invest in systems to aid in acquiring positive reviews, while others let reviews happen organically. No doctor can make every patient happy all the time. (I would actually warn you to stay away from those who contort themselves trying.) One or two poor reviews should not scare you off, assuming they are accompanied by several positive ones.
Last but not least, pay a personal visit to the office you are considering. What is your initial impression as you park, approach the building, and are greeted at the front desk? Is the office up to date and clean? Is the staff helpful and in a good mood? Keep in mind that you will be visiting this office about once a month until your treatment is complete. Upon visiting, ask yourself if the office feels like home and if the staff feels like an extension of your family.
I am a board-certified orthodontist. I feel extremely blessed to be part of this elite group of specialists practicing orthodontics today. And though I am confident that I am an excellent orthodontist, I am also confident that I am not necessarily the best choice for everyone based on individual personality and needs. There are MANY great orthodontists in your area. There certainly are in Fort Worth!
Find the orthodontist that is best for YOU. Talk to your friends, search the internet, visit offices, interview oral surgeons, and always ask your potential doctor if they are a specialist. Finding YOUR orthodontist is not always easy, but it is definitely worth your time, your mental peace, and your SMILE to do your homework. Afterall, doesn’t your smile deserve the BEST?