Interviewing Your Orthodontist

Asking the right questions is critical when choosing a professional for your orthodontic care. After all, it’s your smile.

How long have they been actively treating patients in private practice?

On average, orthodontic residents put braces on 25-40 patients during their 2 ½ year residency. The finishing and detailing stage of braces requires the utmost knowledge of how teeth function and react. Artistry must be combined with science to produce a beautiful, stable, and functional smile. Does your orthodontic need fall within the 25 patients. Consider shopping experience, after all, you have to kiss a lot of toads to find a prince.

What continuing education class/program had the biggest impact on their ability to deliver better orthodontics each year?

Running on a business based on 10 year-old software that hasn’t undergone any updating is scary. Moving teeth based on the biology 10 years ago is acceptable. The why teeth move story doesn’t change much. However, the way we can manipulate the biology mechanically changes every second. The Roth-Williams Center for Functional Occlusion is the only orthodontic C.E. program in the United States that teaches extensive knowledge of occlusion. Functional occlusion refers to how teeth best fit together, how they function, and how they support each other combined with how they work with the temporomandibular joint. It took Dr. Allen 2 years on top of the 11 years of school common to all orthodontists to master functional orthodontics. Others just do what they learned in residency and dental school. What you don’t know won’t hurt you.

Do you commonly tell parents “Let’s put braces on and see how it goes?” Can you determine the exact treatment plan prior to putting braces on?

A heart surgeon knows the stint size, where it should go and the prognosis associated with it’s placement. There is a protocol for recovery and rehabilitation. Orthodontists should ALWAYS be able to tell you and SHOULD tell you what they think are the roadblocks to the treatment plan. Precise, understandable explanations of all the pros & cons of choosing their treatment plan should be revealed. If they are not, they either don’t know themselves or are too dogmatic to think explanations are warranted. Demand to know why, what, where, what if, what else?

Bonus Questions

If Herbst* is an option:

  • What are the risks?
  • What are the side effects?
  • Will the finish be stable?
  • Will I be able to tear into a piece of pizza with the same force as I do now?
  • Why would someone recommend theHerbst and another orthodontist not recommend it for the same patient?

*The Herbst® appliance is a superior fixed functional appliance which effectively corrects skeletal Class II malocclusions. However, Dr. Allen carefully selects candidates for the device due to it’s potential deleterious effects on the dentition, supporting tissues, and the functional biomechanics of the bite.

If surgery is an option:

  • How many surgical cases have you set up and completed?
  • Do you have any pictures of before and after of your work you can show me?
  • What additional training have you had in actual surgical orthodontics?