FAQs: Patients

We routinely get calls from patients asking questions and I am one of the most read contributors in Quoram. These are some of the frequently asked questions. Have a question for me? Ask through the Contact Page and I will be happy to answer it and add it to the list here.

Q: Can you fix or replace my retainer?

A. Yes, it is what we do. But no, I cannot. Under state (and federal?) law, I cannot work directly with a patient. Think of an orthodontic or dental lab as a pharmacy: everything we do requires a doctor’s signed prescription. Lab owners have gone to jail or suffered heavy fines by working directly with patients. It is against the law.

Q: What is the difference between an orthodontist and a dentist?

A. An orthodontist actually is a dentist, but with advanced training in orthodontics. They receive their doctorate in dental medicine (DMD) and then go on for an extra three years of advanced training in orthodontics. It is comparable to your family physician and a surgeon or radiologist. All of them get their MD (or DO) and then specialize.

Q: Why should I see an orthodontist for braces or Invisalign and not a dentist?

A. Specialization. Even for simple cases, I still highly recommend getting multiple opinions from orthodontists. Can a dentist do braces and Invisalign? Yes. But would you go to your family doctor for a “simple” procedure like an appendectomy? They have the training to do it. But a surgeon, though more expensive, is your better option because they have received the specialized training and experience so if something does go wrong, they are ready for it.

Q: Can you recommend an orthodontist?

A. I would be happy to, but it depends on where you live. We deal with many orthodontists from a wide area. I will put together a list eventually. I highly recommend getting three opinions and comparing options and seeing how you feel about an orthodontist. Your gut is your best bet, along with recommendations from people who have been to that orthodontist. Price is an awful way to choose. I recommend orthodontists based on what I have heard and what I have seen. I am also biased against certain post treatment options. Hawleys are the way to go.

Q: Do you have to where your retainer for the rest of your life?

A. Only if you want to keep your teeth straight. Your teeth actually “remember” where they used to be and try to get back there, and they just naturally shift as we get older–unless your genetics are super great. A typical course of treatment is wearing the retainer 24/7 for the first six months (the danger zone, while your teeth recover from the trauma they have just been through) and then nighttime wear after that. I think(?) it is safe to wear the retainer only a few nights a week after the first two years, but that is a question best left to an orthodontist.

Q: Should I get Invisalign or Traditional Braces?

A. I am biased against Invisalign and other “clear braces” for a number of reasons. I see clear braces for what they were originally intended for: simple cases. Your best bet is to talk to an orthodontist that offers both and discuss the pros and cons.

Q: What do you charge doctors?

A. Sorry, but that’s between me and the doctors.