Why Choose a Specialist?

The fact of the matter is that your child may or may not need a specialist for his or her dental needs. The question within a question becomes, “How will you know if your child needs a specialist or not?”

Before we explore the additional question of whether or not your child needs to see a specialist, let’s be clear on what, exactly, an orthodontist is:


What An Orthodontist Does

Orthodontists are dental specialists who have completed 2-3 years of additional education beyond dental school to learn the proper way to align teeth and jaws. This further training qualifies your orthodontist to identify, diagnose and more importantly treat a broad spectrum of dental irregularities your family dentist may not, such as :

  • Early or late loss of teeth
  • Difficulty in chewing or biting
  • Crowding, misplaced, or blocked-out teeth
  • Jaws that shift, make sounds, protrude or retrude
  • Speech difficulty
  • Biting the cheek or into the roof of the mouth
  • Protruding teeth
  • Teeth that meet in an abnormal way or don’t meet at all
  • Facial imbalance
  • Grinding or clenching of teeth

The nature of some of these issues, many of which present themselves in early to late childhood or adolescence, grow increasingly serious with lack of proper treatment. Having a specialist identify, diagnose and treat such ailments is the # 1 reason for seeing an orthodontist.


What Your Orthodontist Doesn’t Do

From what your orthodontist does, let’s shift to what he or she doesn’t do. For instance, your orthodontist doesn’t do fillings or cleanings. He or she exclusively provides orthodontic and dentofacial orthopedic treatment to help shape the jaws and teeth into dazzling smiles.

This begs the question, are orthodontists dentists? Yes, actually, they are. In fact, all orthodontists are dentists, but only 6% of dentists are orthodontists.


So, why should I choose a specialist for my child’s orthodontic care?

Some problems simply need a specialist’s care. When you’re pregnant, you go to an obstetrician. When you have stomach problems beyond what your general practitioner is qualified to handle, you visit your gastroenterologist.

Well, in the same way that pediatricians or obstetricians are medical specialists, orthodontists are dental specialists. When you choose an orthodontist, you are choosing a specialist with the broadest experience and training possible.

Unique treatment requirements and otherwise difficult bite problems are common, everyday scenarios for your orthodontist. In the interest of receiving the most efficient and effective orthodontic treatment possible, choose an orthodontic specialist.

How do I know my doctor is an orthodontist?

One question I get asked frequently is “How do I know if my doctor is an orthodontist?” It’s a good question, and a critical one to ask as you seek additional treatment for your child’s dental issues.

Here’s the answer: Only orthodontists can belong to the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO). If you’re looking for a local orthodontist, go on-line and visit www.braces.org to find a specialist in your area. This FREE website features not only a searchable database of orthodontists but educational tips, answers and resources to help you on your quest for your child’s healthiest smile!

Or you can simply ask your doctor if he or she has completed a 2-3 year residency in orthodontics and check with your state dental board to follow-up on his reply. Dentists and orthodontists in most states will be registered differently with the dental board.

Do your homework; be a “dental detective” while on the hunt for such vital information. Look for the words “dental specialist in orthodontics” or ask your general dentist for a referral to a specialist. In urban and suburban areas, it will take minimal effort to find a specialist.

In more remote rural locations, your search might take you to another city or town. Don’t be afraid to ask your dentist if an orthodontist travels to your town every month to see patients.

There’s a chance an orthodontist from a larger city comes to your town and works out of another dental office once or twice per month. Looking around can save valuable driving time and money.


Why is Your Smile So Important?

The First Reason : Health

The fact is, a straight smile is a healthy smile. Like anything else in life, balance is all about proportion. Straight teeth and jaws that align mean the rest of the mouth and, indeed, face can grow proportionally, ensuring good oral health.

First and foremost, I am a doctor and a specialist who deals specifically with making sure your child has the healthiest mouth possible. This includes such possible orthodontic treatment as:

  • Braces for children
  • Invisalign or clear tooth aligners
  • Keyless Expanders to improve jaw alignment
  • Habit appliances to prevent harmful side-effects from thumb sucking
  • Space maintainers to help permanent teeth erupt into alignment
  • Retainers to prevent unwanted crowding
  • Functional appliances to improve facial balance and beauty
  • Early treatment and growth modification
  • Customized appliances designed uniquely for each patient
  • Soft Tissue Laser for optimal gum tissue esthetics

While it may seem like an exhaustive list, the fact is your child may only need braces, or appliances; rarely both. The bottom line is, health comes first, last and always! But keep reading, there are lots more reasons why a healthy smile is an important smile:

The Second Reason : Confidence

Why go to the trouble of seeing a specialist for your child’s smile? Simple: so he can stop hiding it! Have you noticed your child hiding his smile more often lately? Has she become less secure around you, her siblings, her friends, at school?

It can be easy for you as the parent to overlook the irregularities in your child’s smile, or to see crooked teeth or even an overbite as “cute.” True, all children are beautiful in their parents’ eyes but the fact remains crooked or overly-spaced teeth can present real obstacles for your child’s confidence level now, as well as later in life.

Having a clean, healthy and straight smile gives your child the confidence he needs to stop hiding his smile – and start showing it off instead. Do your child a favor and talk to him about his smile, and how it might be affecting him.

What’s more, look at your child objectively for the following signs that he may be in need of a qualified orthodontist:

Early or late loss of teeth Difficulty in chewing or biting Mouth breathing Finger sucking or other oral habits Crowding, misplaced, or blocked-out teeth Jaws that shift, make sounds, protrude or retrude Speech difficulty Biting the cheek or into the roof of the mouth Protruding teeth Teeth that meet in an abnormal way or don’t meet at all Facial imbalance Grinding or clenching of teeth

Such signs are an indication that you should visit an orthodontist sooner rather than later.

The Third Reason : Socialization

Let’s face it: kids can be cruel! From elementary school on, and sometimes even sooner if your child is involved in Pre-K, peer groups and classmates look for any reason to tease, ostracize or even outright humiliate kids who are perceived as “different.”

While I’m not condoning such behavior, I see it every day when my patients come in complaining of the other kids teasing them about their crooked teeth, buck teeth or overbite. The fact is, they may not share this with you, for fear of being even more embarrassed at home as well as school.

You might be surprised what your kids will tell me while sitting in my chair that they won’t tell you while sitting at the dinner table. A straight, clean and healthy smile can not only give your child the confidence she needs to embrace her true worth, but can also pave the way toward easier socialization at school, at church, in groups and during extracurricular activities.

The Fourth Reason : Comfort

Headaches. Toothaches. Sinus problems. Dry mouth. Snoring. Drooling. Bad breath. Insomnia.

All of these and much more are symptoms of a smile that isn’t straight, jaws that aren’t aligned or teeth that are too close together – or not quite close enough. Oftentimes, however, the mouth is the last place we check for signs of discomfort, loss of sleep, or even a simple headache.

If your child’s pediatrician can’t figure out why she’s not sleeping well or experiencing headaches or even insomnia for which there seems to be no cause, a simple 30-minute exam at your local orthodontist could clear the problem right up!

The Fifth Reason : Proper Development

Picture your child like a giant, living, breathing, walking, talking puzzle. As he or she grows, more and more of the puzzle falls into place over time. The expectation, of course, is that all of the pieces of the puzzle fit perfectly.

And, usually, it does. His arms and legs grow proportionally so that he can run, jump, skip and bend with ease. Her eyes and nose and smile form at about the same time, so that her face is in proportion.

Teeth, tongue, lips, smile, it should all grow in proportion as well. But when it doesn’t, that’s where the problems start. Now imagine your child’s smile as a piece of that puzzle we first talked about.

What might happen if his or her mouth doesn’t quite “fit”? The fact is, the sooner you straighten your child’s smile, the faster it will develop as it should; straight, clean and healthy!

The Sixth Reason : Peace of Mind

As a parent, I know you want the best for your child. No parent wants their child to suffer, either from teeth that actually hurt, from headaches you can’t explain, insomnia that affects everything else or insecurity your child may be feeling because of a crooked or oversized smile.

The fact is, your child’s formative years are actually the most sensitive for his or her teeth. Now is the time to pay close attention to your child’s smile, his behavior, his peer relationships, even his confidence level.

If any or all are lacking, a qualified orthodontist can give you and your child the peace of mind you both crave.

Parting Words About Why Your Child’s Smile is So Important

I probably didn’t need to tell you most of this. As a parent, no doubt you want the best for your child, including his or her smile. But hopefully this chapter has solidified how important early, safe and expert help can be to ensuring a bright smile for your child – as well as a bright future!


© 2006-2012  Dustin S. Burleson, DDS.  All rights reserved.