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Is my dentist an orthodontist?

Your dentist may offer orthodontic treatment, but it does not mean that he or she is an orthodontist. Dentists do not have the same level of education and experience in orthodontic treatment as orthodontists have. If you have any doubt, ask if your dentist has graduated from an accredited orthodontic residency program. About 6 percent of those who graduate from dental school go on to become orthodontists by graduating from an accredited orthodontic residency program. Orthodontists are the dental profession’s specialists in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of dental and facial irregularities. 

If your dentist focuses his/her practice on providing only orthodontic treatment (prevention, diagnosis and treatment of facial and dental irregularities), and is a member of the American Association of Orthodontists, then he/she is an orthodontist. If your dentist provides general dental services such as cleanings, fillings, and overall management to maintain or restore oral health, then he/she is probably not an orthodontist. Use Find an Orthodontist to locate AAO orthodontists. The AAO only admits educationally qualified orthodontists as members.

Does extra education really make a difference in how an orthodontic problem is treated, or in the outcome?

Yes, orthodontists’ extra and intensive education makes a big difference. As specialists through education and clinical experience, orthodontists are experts in the diagnosis of orthodontic problems, forms of treatment, the timing of treatment, treatment planning, supervision of treatment, as well as working with patients for long-term stability of their treatment results. The orthodontist’s expertise guides him/her in recommending the type of treatment best suited to correct any specific patients’ orthodontic problem. Orthodontists are not limited to a single kind of orthodontic “appliance.” Orthodontists are uniquely qualified specialists and have the skills and experience to give you a healthy and beautiful smile.

Why choose an AAO orthodontist?

Choosing an AAO orthodontist is your assurance that the doctor truly is an orthodontist because the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) only admits orthodontists for membership.

What is an AAO orthodontist?

An AAO orthodontist is a member of the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO). The AAO only admits orthodontists for membership – those who have completed a specialty training program in orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics after graduating from dental school.

What is an orthodontist?

An orthodontist is a specialist in orthodontic treatment (proper alignment of teeth and jaws) and dentofacial orthopedics (guidance of facial, jaw and facial development). Only those who graduate from dental school, usually a four-year program, and who are accepted for and successfully complete advanced study in orthodontics at accredited two-to-three year orthodontic residency program may call themselves “orthodontists.” Orthodontists focus their services to patients on providing orthodontic treatment to children, teenagers and adults. Orthodontists create healthy, beautiful smiles for patients of all ages.

Will the orthodontist tell my dentist about the consultation and its findings?

Yes. The orthodontist will communicate the results of this visit with your dentist, including recommended next steps, if any. However, if you prefer that the dentist not be informed, the orthodontist will comply with your wishes.

I have insurance for orthodontic treatment. Does the orthodontist take my insurance?

Ask the orthodontist at your consultation appointment. Be sure to bring your insurance card with you.

Will the exam cause me any discomfort?

No – you should experience no discomfort during the exam.

Are x-rays really necessary?

Yes. For the orthodontist to be able to fully and accurately diagnose your orthodontic problem, x-rays are necessary. An accurate diagnosis is your orthodontist’s key to planning every step of your treatment so that you finish treatment with a healthy bite. Today’s x-ray machines emit significantly less radiation, as compared to x-ray machines of a generation ago.

Will the orthodontist take x-rays?

It is likely a panoramic x-ray will be taken. Another type of x-ray, a cephalometric x-ray, may be taken. It is a side-view of the head.