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Why Should I Trust the Orthodontist?

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Lori Curley: While waiting on the patient's side of the sliding-glass doors, I overheard my daughter's orthodontist's wife, "Mrs. Perkily," on the phone. She collects the payments and sets the appointments, but this particular call seemed personal. She was telling the caller about the flooring she chose for her kitchen. I noticed that she wore a glowing tan and a stunning topaz ring set with diamonds. She nodded to let me know that she was getting off the phone.

girl at dentist

Curious (or nosy), I asked her, "Are you renovating?" She giggled. "Yes, I am so excited," she said. "I have wanted a new kitchen for years." This got me thinking about my own lousy kitchen ... and I realized that my daughter was wearing the kitchen I dreamed of on her teeth. For that matter, my daughter's slight overbite was replacing Mrs. Perkily's countertops. I began to wonder: How much dental work is really necessary?

One mother told me that her daughter had worn a retainer for two years because the orthodontist had said it would "do the trick." But now, the same expert was telling her that her daughter needed a full set of braces. We both wonder about the correlation between "needs braces" and "needs new kitchen" or "needs to cover costly college tuition."

Before settling on the orthodontist for our daughter, I got quotes from three different shops. The guy closest to the best public high school in the area was ready to take $15,000 from us. My husband looked at the quote and said, "Tell him to f--- himself." The next guy I went to was the scariest: He burst through a swinging door in a shop the size of a dressing room at Macy's, didn't know my daughter's name, didn't look in her mouth, didn't introduce himself. He merely handed me a quote of $3,000. When I told my husband about that experience and the price, he said, "Tell him to f--- himself."

The third guy seemed the most reasonable, but I hope his kitchen doesn't run overbudget ....

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6 comments so far | Post a comment now
friend May 3, 2010, 1:01 PM

WOW… $15,000 IS a new kitchen! But seriously, being jealous of another’s prosperity is not the way to go. Some people DO work hard to get what they need or want, while others take a simpler and less than admirable route. whatever your doubts are, it’s too late since your daughter is already in the process of treatment. in terms of what’s necessary, it’s always good to get second and third opinions. having said that, i didn’t mean just going around asking for quotes for braces but a regular checkup and see what the doc says, starting with a blank page instead of filling in blanks and setting yourself up.

Debra May 3, 2010, 8:39 PM

I’d say look at the doctor’s professionalism and reviews from other patients. It is hard to look at doctor’s and see they’re charging you and they’re getting to do renovations but it’s the same for every career, they most likely had to save up like everyone else. Doctors have tons of medical insurance and school loans so most don’t actually make a decent living until well into their careers.

But I had a horrible experience with an orthodontist, my teeth were fairly straight I had one premolar that was rotated around. Also he was very upset since my lower lip stuck out more than my upper which was more “cosmetic”.I moved during treatment and went to his cousin who told me braces wouldn’t have done anything for me since I had a skeletal deformity and my teeth would never line up right (they’re off by less than 1 mm). Not to mention the glue he used was so strong I still have some left since neither my second orthodontist or dentist could remove it.

If your daughter’s teeth are that bad I’d say it’s still a sound investment it is the smile she’ll be putting forth and if it bothers her she’ll probably feel self conscious about it so fixing them will be a good self esteem boost. But if they overall seem fine I’d say they’re trying to rip you off; there are plenty of good doctors but some can be sleazy I don’t think I paid more than 3,000 for mine and I only had them on for a year.

Caitlyn May 6, 2010, 2:24 PM

My mother thought the same thing. My whole life I was told I had a beautiful smile and not to worry about braces. I got recommended to an orthodontist as a one time visit only to receive a mouth guard to wear at night. This turned into them telling me I had an overbite, I need braces for at least a year or by the time I reached 30 I’d need dentures, from grinding away my teeth. I’m supposed to be getting my braces off next week after over a year of having them, rubber bands, bite plates, chains, and I see no significant difference. But my orthdonost has jokingly told my mother how much she’s helping him pay off his car. Hm?

Debbie May 10, 2010, 2:16 PM

Well, I never had orthodontia when I was a child, or a teenager! Neither did my dentist see fit to do more than bitewing x-rays to check for wisdom teeth. By the time I was 33, I had a new dentist, overnight surgery in a hospital to remove my 4 impacted wisdom teeth, and a bone cyst in my jaw that stretched from my joint to the middle of my chin. I had to have all of my bottom teeth pulled on the lower right side of my mouth, that had to heal, then I had surgery to replace the jawbone, and my mouth was wired shut for 6 months while I drank my food through a straw. After 2 years of treatment and post-op healing, I had to get braces at 38 years of age, and spend 2 years in braces and 2 years of retainers, then a partial to replace the teeth that were removed for the surgery in the first place. From this perspective, I say that braces ARE a necessity—-if the doctor tells you to get them, get them, or you may be faced with much more serious problems down the road! I wish my parents had gotten them for me at a younger age!

Tina May 10, 2010, 5:23 PM

The cost of orthodontia will vary from region to region just as the cost of living does. $15,000 sounds excessive to me unless you’re talking CA or NY or “Invisalign”. As “friend” said, it’s too late now since you have begun treatment already, but I have a comment or two for anyone else who may be considering ortho for their kids or themselves. If you trust your dentist, I would trust him or her to give you a referral. Ask who they plan on sending their child to. Don’t ask, “how do you like so and so?” Most likely, you will not get a straight answer. Doctors don’t like to bad mouth each other. Also, ask parents of classmates or friends for their recommendations and trust your judgement once you have had your consult. When it comes to expense, remember how many years an orthodontist goes to school & the cost of that education and of a practice. I’m not saying they don’t make buckets of money, but they worked hard to get where they are. Four years college, four dental school, and two to three years to become an orthodontist, not to mention having to be in about the top 5% of their class to be accepted. Ortho is not just to straighten a smile, but also to prevent some future problems. Your daughter is very lucky you have decided to pay for her treatment, and you will hopefully be glad you did when all is said and done. Maybe once she graduates college you can get your new kitchen! Good luck!

Mako March 19, 2011, 10:37 AM

always look around for quotes instead jumping in.
Invisalign Vs braces

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