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1. Is your oral care provider an orthodontist?
Did you know all orthodontists are dentists but not all dentists are orthodontists? To become an orthodontist, a dentist must first graduate among the top of their dental class to gain acceptance into a nationally-recognized orthodontic residency. Once in the orthodontic residency, they must endure 2-3 years of rigorous orthodontic training. After they finally become an orthodontist, their sole focus is the practice of orthodontics, which gives them a proficiency in the specialty of braces and Invisalign that far exceeds other standards of practice. Ask your doctor if they are a member of the AAO, or American Association of Orthodontists, if not, go to someone who is. Also ask them if they are specifically an orthodontist, only a graduate of a specialized orthodontic residency can say they are an orthodontist. If they say they are an orthodontist and they are not, call your local dental association and report this false representation.

2. Choose a family-owned practice, not a “chain” provider.
A family-owned or private practice will generally provide you with excellent treatment as well as great service. The private orthodontic practice will insure that you receive treatment from the same doctor, which cuts down on overall treatment time. Family-owned practices are often more engaged with your community too—they are not just a company looking to earn a quick dollar. They are genuinely interested in the well-being of the patient and community in which they live. Most corporate dental offices are set up to require the doctor to sell as many procedures to their patients as possible, and this unfortunately usually means they will push treatment that you don’t really need. Do your research and review what people are not only saying about your local chain dental practice but also about the chain as a whole. Google class action dental lawsuit and you will see first hand how these practices treat their patients.

3. My dentist says he can do braces and Invisalign, what should I do?
Your dentist is the most important person on your oral health team, in other words, he or she is the “quarterback” of your oral health. They are responsible for the overall health of your mouth. Dentists, however, are not orthodontists. You should choose an orthodontist who can provide your orthodontic treatment; whether it’s braces, Invisalign, Invisalign Teen, Damon system, Expanders or any type of orthodontic treatment. Not only have orthodontists received more extensive training, but orthodontics is the only thing an orthodontist does all day every day. An orthodontist spends their entire career training on and treating only orthodontic cases. They do not focus on the broad spectrum of oral health but rather the dental specialty of dentofacial orthopedics. If your dentist is performing multiple “specialty procedures” like general dentistry, orthodontics, periodontics and endodontics you may want to take a closer look at their experience and results. Would you trust the doctor who has performed the treatment 1,000 times as compared to the doctor who has performed the treatment 10 times? You only get one set of teeth! Make sure you are trusting your care to the most qualified individuals.

4. What about dental or orthodontic insurance?
The best thing you can do is call your orthodontist and have them verify your coverage for you. Most private practices will do this at no charge. If you are shopping for insurance, ask if there is a waiting period. Many orthodontic insurance policies have a waiting period of 1-2 years meaning if you start treatment before that time insurance will not pay toward treatment. Another great question to ask is “Do you cover a work in progress?” This is a good question if you have already started treatment but want to gain insurance coverage. Some insurance policies will not provide payment if treatment has started before the effective date of the insurance policy.

5. How do I find a good orthodontist?
Ask your friends and read online reviews. Call and make an appointment—the first appointment is generally free or at a reasonable fee. It is worth the time and money to make sure your orthodontist is a good fit for you. Ask your dentist, be aware that your dentist may offer to perform treatment for you, but remember number three above. If your dentist wants to perform all types of treatment chances are they are not very proficient at any one dental task. There are dental specialists for a reason. Trust your smile to a specialist and you can rest easy knowing you are getting treatment from the most capable professionals.

6. Do you offer financing?
The cost of braces and Invisalign can be daunting, but don’t let that scare you. Many orthodontic practices offer affordable zero intrest payment options that fit just about any budget. Care Credit and iCare dental financing can be a great option. Both Care Credit and iCare offer extended payment plans, but be aware that they do charge significant interest rates for their programs. If you have the option to use a line of credit with lower rates that may be your best option outside of zero interest in house financing. Also many people do not know when a medical practice runs your credit, that inquiry will not show up on your credit score do to HIPPA regulations.

7. Don’t fall for the low up-front price.
When looking for an orthodontist, it is not the time to search for a bargain. Some dental and orthodontic practices will present a product or service at a low price up front with the intention of selling you other “extra services” down the road at a severely inflated price. Many times, when you choose a practice that offers a low treatment price, they will charge hidden fees down the road to make their money back. Often, by the time you end up paying these extra fees you have come out of pocket more than you would have by going with a highly-recommended orthodontist. A quality orthodontic practice will go out of their way to be very up front about the cost of treatment. On another note you only get one set of teeth, don’t sacrifice your own health and well being just to save some money. You will find that orthodontic practices that charge the most are also provide the best treatment and the best service. Quality and service come with a price .

Dr. Casi Stubbs is a certified orthodontist who has practiced orthodontics since 2008. She is an expert in oral maxiofacial orthopedics and has successfully treated thousands of happy patients. Her education and experience have equipped her to be an expert in braces, Invisalign, Invisalign Teen, and other forms of orthodontic treatment. Dr. Stubbs graduated among the top of her class from the University of Florida School of Dentistry and Nova Southeastern University’s Orthodontic Program. She provides orthodontic treatment for children as well as adults, and has treated thousands of patients from Niceville, Destin, Miramar Beach, South Walton, DeFuniak Springs, Freeport, Crestview, Valparaiso and other surrounding areas in the Florida Panhandle and along Florida’s Emerald Coast. Dr. Casi Stubbs has been recognized as “Best Orthodontist” by Emerald Coast Magazine in 2016 and 2017 and was also selected as the Volunteer Provider of the Year for the Children’s Volunteer Health Network. Buzzfeed has also recently interviewed and quoted Dr. Stubbs as an orthodontic expert for national coverage regarding orthodontic treatment.