One of the most important considerations in selecting an orthodontist is if he/she has graduated from a two to three-year orthodontic residency program after the completion of dental school, making them an orthodontic specialist. Ask if they’re a member of the American Association of Orthodontists, signaling they’ve met the educational membership requirements to be considered a “specialist” in the field of orthodontics.
Be wary of dental offices offering orthodontic services alongside general dental services like crowns and extractions. Orthodontists do not perform routine dental procedures; they solely focus on their specialty – orthodontics. You’ll need to do carefully research applicable to your home state. Some states allow a specialty license within the field of dentistry so that dentists can proclaim they’re “orthodontic specialists” in their marketing materials. What’s wrong with that, you may ask? A lot.
Forget for a moment how misleading it is for a dentist to proclaim themselves orthodontic specialists. Consider the difference in a cardiologist and family doctor, as an example of why you want to ensure your orthodontic needs are met by a legitimate orthodontic specialist. Would you go to your family doctor for surgery if you needed a heart valve replacement? No, you’d go to a doctor with an education and residency training specializing in cardiac surgery. It’s the same with an orthodontist verses a dentist.
Now, here is the misleading part. Orthodontic specialists have graduated from dental school with a doctorate degree and then gone onward to residency to gain a masters degree and certificate in Orthodontics. During that two or three-year orthodontic specialty training, which a regular dentist hasn’t attended, orthodontists have extensively studied the dynamics of orthodontics as it relates to adult and pediatric persons. They’ve been involved in case studies and treated innumerable patients under the direct supervision of experts in the field.
The bottom line is that your family dentist may offer some orthodontic treatments and even have a state license asserting themselves as experts, but that does not make a general dentist an orthodontic specialist.