How to Choose an OrthodontistFor a number of years it's been clear that our oldest son, Samson, was going to need braces. He had what we lovingly call “crazy teeth.” There were teeth high in the gums (what my brother used to call “dog teeth” because they look like werewolf  incisors), teeth behind other teeth, and most of the teeth that were generally in their proper place were turned askew one way or another. His poor mouth was a mess.

Our two oldest daughters began orthodontic treatment in Florida and finished up the last bit in Utah on referral, so we hadn't really done a thorough search of orthodontists locally.

When it came time to find a new orthodontist, here is the process we followed:

  1. Sent requests to multiple email lists/groups of people I trust and asked for specific recommendations for orthodontists in our city or neighboring cities. Spent about two weeks collecting these reviews (both good and bad) from multiple trusted sources.
  2. Took the top ten vote-getters — who had no consequential negative reports — and checked to see if they were on our dental insurance.
  3. Did more research on those still on the list, looking for online reviews, checking out their websites, looking at credentials, contacting references, etc.
  4. Scheduled an appointment with our top three choices to visit and compare services/prices.
  5. Took Samson to all three to meet the dentists, see the offices, get a preliminary evaluation and treatment recommendation. All three offered complimentary consultations for prospective patients.
  6. Evaluated the three with input from Samson.

Orthodontics — as a generally elective process — is highly competitive and, therefore, open to a great deal of comparison shopping. We told each of the orthodontists we visited that we were getting multiple consultations and that while price was an important consideration, it certainly wasn't the most important.

After the visits, we found that the three orthodontists recommended an almost identical treatment plan. This was reassuring to us, as the course of appropriate action didn't seem to be in question. The only variation was that one doctor showed us two options, one was a two-phase procedure and the other — that mirrored the other two — had a single phase.

With all three, the single-phase plan included a recommendation that we wait a year to begin. The only caveat given was that he could start treatment right away if his extremely crooked teeth were causing him social issues. Being homeschoolers, that kind of thing is much less problematic. He didn't care so we opted to wait.

Of the three orthodontists, one — in a bare bones, no-nonsense, old-fashioned office, offered a low, flat rate. The  next, in a nice, updated office, offered a bit higher rate with an iPod thrown in. The third — in a fancy schmancy, exciting beach themed office with parties, prizes, and perks — had the highest price.

All were within a few hundred dollars and — here's the kicker — the coolio surfer dude office offered to match any price.

Samson loved the beach office. He liked the friendly “Dr. T.” He loved the beach bucks and prizes. He noticed an upcoming water park party just for patients. Given the recommendations, my overall impression, his enthusiasm (for an otherwise yucky experience), and the price match, Thompson Orthodontics was the winner.

Last June, Samson started treatment. Yes, that picture is him being treated by Dr. (Wade) T(hompson). He's in for a long haul, in many incremental steps. But now he's got the cursed expander out and the top braces are on. The lower braces will follow when the last two baby teeth finally come out. Already I can see an enormous difference between last summer and today. He's going to have a gorgeous smile.

If orthodontics are in your future, remember that it's a big decision with a big price tag. Take  your time to make an informed choice so you can be happy with the outcome and the process.

[Note: I started writing another post showing good vs. bad business practices. The feature was a Thompson Orthodontics business success. This post was something of an accidental byproduct. In the process of writing how they do business, I had explained the entire process we used to find the orthodontist that best suited us.

We highly recommend Thompson. If you're in the neighborhood (Utah Valley) and want to check them out, I can give you a coupon worth $100 off treatment. If you use it we'll get $100 off Samson's treatment as well. I didn't get the coupons because I'm writing this post. All patients get “Word of Mouth” coupons they can pass on to others. You'll get one, too.]