How to Find a Good Orthodontist in Your Area
Every time I read an orthodontic blog written by another orthodontist, there is almost always an article about how to choose an orthodontist. Predictably, when I get to the conclusion, the best orthodontist for the reader is usually the doctor writing the blog! I’ve always thought that was a little self-serving and vowed I’d never write an article like that myself. Surprisingly however, I’ve had quite a few readers who really want to know how to find a good orthodontist in their own area of the country. Since the vast majority of you reading this live nowhere near Rio Rancho, New Mexico, I am writing this to help you find a good orthodontist near you.
Make sure your "orthodontist" is actually a specialist
First, make sure that every orthodontist you consider is actually a specialist and not just a dentist that does orthodontics. Please see my article entitled “What is the Difference between an Orthodontist and a Dentist That Does Orthodontics?" for an in depth discussion on why that is important. One way you can be sure that he or she is a specialist is to look him or her up on the website www.braces.org. This site lists only specialists who have graduated from an accredited orthodontic program and belong to the American Association of Orthodontists. The American Board of Orthodontics website http://www.americanboardortho.com lists orthodontists who have gone a step further and become board certified. No matter where you find the name of the doctor, be sure to ask these two simple questions: 1) “Are you a specialist?” and 2) “How long was your specialty training?” If they did not have two to three additional years after dental school, they are not specialists.
Get recommendations from other dental specialists
The next place I would seek a referral would be from other detnal 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 now doing orthodontics themselves and they may try to convince you to get your treatment directly from them. General dentists also form relationships with specific orthodontists and may refer you to their “buddy” whether or not he or she does the best work. Oral surgeons and other dental specialists work with all of the orthodontists in the area and get to see and compare their work. A dentist may only work with one or two orthodontists, but an oral surgeon typically works with dozens.
Research orthodontists in your area online
Another source of information is the Internet. Although it can be a valuable resource however, you need to take the information you find there with a grain of salt. First, practice websites do not always accurately portray the quality of work the orthodontist provides. A bad orthodontist might have found a good website designer. On the other hand, if a practice has a bad website or none at all, that may indicate the doctor does not keep up with the times. You should search for reviews on the orthodontists you’re 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 to a computer. No doctor can make every patient happy all the time, so one or two less than perfect reviews should not scare you off assuming there are lots of good ones too. A pattern of terrible reviews however is telling.
Visit the offices of orthodontists you are considering
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 facility modern and clean? Are they running on time? Is the staff helpful and in a good mood? Remember that you are going to be visiting this office about once a month until your treatment is done. Do you feel at home there? Finding an orthodontist is not always easy, but it is worth your time to do some homework. Good luck in your search!
NOTE: The author, Dr. Greg Jorgensen, is a board-certified orthodontist who is in the private practice of orthodontics in Rio Rancho, New Mexico (a suburb on the Westside of Albuquerque). He was trained at BYU, Washington University in St. Louis, and the University of Iowa in the United States. Dr. Jorgensen’s 25 years of specialty practice and 10,000 finished cases qualify him an expert in two-phase treatment, extraction and non-extraction therapy, functional orthodontics, clear aligners (Invisalign), and multiple bracket systems (including conventional braces, Damon and other self-ligating brackets, Suresmile, and lingual braces). This blog is for informational purposes only and is designed to help consumers understand currently accepted orthodontic concepts. It is not a venue for debating alternative treatment theories. Dr. Jorgensen is licensed to diagnose and treat patients only in the state of New Mexico. He cannot diagnose cases described in comments nor can he select treatment plans for readers. Because he has over 25,000 readers each month, it is impossible for him respond to all questions. Please read all of the comments associated with each article as most of the questions he receives each week have been asked and answered previously. The opinions expressed here are protected by copyright laws and can only be used with written permission from the author.