By Susan Braden
If you or your child needs braces, make sure you find an affordable dental orthodontist with the skill and training to make a smile healthy and beautiful. Your mouth may literally be in his or her hands, so before you decide, compare orthodontists and ask questions to ensure you receive the quality treatment you need.
One of the first things to learn is your affordable orthodontist’s methods for treating different problems. He or she should be able to answer thoroughly and specifically about whether or not you need teeth pulled before treatment. Especially if you are a female, ask how the orthodontist checks for and treats allergic reactions. (Nearly one-third of female patients have allergic reactions or sensitivity to orthodontic materials.) Be sure to obtain a copy of the orthodontist’s full treatment plan for your mouth with the procedures you need clearly listed, so that you know what to expect.
If you want affordable care, you need clarity about what the orthodontist will charge for services, so you don’t get hit with hidden or unexpected fees. Are broken retainer replacements and follow-up visits included in the fees? Does the office accept insurance or discount dental plans? Can you pay in installments? What happens if you move away or can otherwise no longer continue treatment? Find out exactly what you will pay so you can begin to budget for the expense.
Proper sterilization can mean the difference between comfortable, affordable, effective braces and severe medical complications. It’s especially important to ask specific questions about this. Ask how the office sterilizes specific items (equipment, bands, handpieces), and if they answer glutaraldehyde, go somewhere else. (Glutaraldehyde is an irritant for some people and is not as advanced as some other methods. A safe orthodontist uses an instrument sterilizer or autoclave.) Additionally, every sterilizer should be spore tested weekly.
Another important issue is sterilization of new materials like brackets and archwires, since they are not automatically sterile from the manufacturer. Or does the orthodontist reuse things taken from another person’s mouth? Are these recycled pieces sterilized?
You want an orthodontist who is up to date on guidelines and procedures and constantly working to expand his or her knowledge base. If he or she is stuck in a rut, however, then you will not get the affordable, effective results you want. How frequently do the orthodontist and staff go to orthodontic meetings? When did he or she last take a continuing education course, and has he or she taught any courses recently?
Sometimes, you simply need to know if the orthodontist can answer your questions to begin with, regardless of whether there is actually a right or wrong answer. He or she should be knowledgeable about the practice and confident in his or her ability to perform your treatment. Once you have the answers to these types of questions, you will be ready to choose a safe, affordable orthodontic provider.