Definition & Overview
An orthodontic consultation is an appointment with an orthodontist, a dentist specializing in orthodontic treatments, to discuss treatment options involving dental braces. It is a great opportunity for the patient to get to know all his or her available options (including the pros and cons), the orthodontist and gauge whether he or she feels comfortable with the dentist, the clinic, and the entire dental team. Consultations usually come free and patients are not expected to make a decision on the day of the appointment.
Who Should Undergo & Expected Results
An orthodontic consultation is helpful for anyone who:
- Is interested in getting braces
- Has an existing dental problem that needs orthodontic treatment
If the patient is under 18 years of age, he or she should be accompanied by a parent or guardian during the consultation. Most dentists recommend having a child’s first orthodontic consultation when he or she reaches the age of 7 years old, which is just the right time for dentists to identify potential bite problems and for starting the treatment process. In fact, orthodontic experts recommend that children undergo an orthodontic evaluation at this specific age because catching problems early will lead to more effective treatments and better results.
After an orthodontic consultation, the patient should have a clear idea of all existing orthodontic options, such as:
Conventional metal braces – These are the most commonly used, least expensive, but also the most noticeable type of braces in use today. For conventional metal braces, there is no need to wait if the patient decides to push through with the treatment. Once the patient has made up his mind, treatment can begin immediately.
Clear or ceramic braces – Many patients are concerned about the unsightly appearance of conventional metal braces, and this has paved the way for less noticeable options, such as clear or ceramic braces that mimic the natural color of the teeth. These are more expensive than the conventional metal option but since they also use brackets, they move teeth faster than aligners.
Invisalign – Invisalign clear aligners are relatively new in the field of orthodontics. The treatment involves using several custom-made plastic aligners that slowly guide teeth to the desired position. Each treatment requires about 18 to 30 aligners, each of which will be used for about two weeks before it is replaced by the aligner that is next in line. This is a great alternative for those who are concerned about the aesthetics of wearing braces, but it is also very limited and cannot solve major dental problems. It is also the most expensive orthodontic option today. If a patient decides to push through with Invisalign, the next step will be a diagnostic consultation, during which impressions will be taken to prepare the aligners.
How Does the Procedure Work?
An orthodontic consultation often involves the following steps:
- Dental and medical review
- Oral exam
- X-ray, if necessary
- Formulating a treatment plan tailored to needs of the patient
- Breaking down of costs
- Timeline of treatment
- Insurance considerations
- Coming up with possible payment plans
- Financing options and payment schedules
If an x-ray is necessary, the orthodontist will usually use a digital x-ray machine to take a full scan of the mouth. This process will only take approximately a minute. Other than an x-ray scan, patients should not expect to undergo any other kind of procedure during the orthodontic consultation. There is also no need to have teeth impressions taken yet.
Potential patients should also use the orthodontic consultation as their chance to ask any questions they may have regarding the treatment. The most important questions that need to be brought up during the appointment are the following:
- What are the different types of orthodontic treatments available?
- What are the advantages and disadvantages of each option?
- Which treatment option is most cost-effective?
- How long will the entire treatment process take?
- Will tooth extractions be necessary?
The initial appointment usually takes about 30 minutes to 1 hour. After the consultation, patients should take all the time they need to consider all the details that have been discussed. Getting an orthodontic treatment is a major investment in terms of time and money. It will require repeated visits to the dentist followed by regular checkups during the treatment period.
If the patient decides to push through with a particular treatment plan, he or she will be scheduled for a records appointment, during which impressions of the mouth will be taken. This is then followed by the final appointment where the chosen orthodontic appliance will be placed. This final visit will take around 1 ½ to 2 hours.
Possible Complications and Risks
Since no procedure will be undertaken during an orthodontic consultation, there are virtually no risks involved. If the patient will undergo an X-ray scan, there is some amount of radiation exposure involved, but x-rays are considered as a safe routine diagnostic procedure in both the dental and medical fields. However, x-ray imaging is generally not recommended for pregnant women.
There is also the risk of the patient not feeling comfortable with the orthodontist or not being able to get all the information and answers he or she needs to make a final decision. In such cases, patients are advised to seek a second opinion from another orthodontist so they can make a well-informed choice.
- Tinanoff N. Malocclusion. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 301.