Going in for your first braces consultation can be both exciting and scary. On the one hand, you are starting your journey toward a new, radiant smile. On the other hand, you may have heard braces can be painful, and you’re not sure what to expect.
It’s normal to be nervous about your first orthodontic appointment. However, with just a little bit of preparation and information, you can rest easy and avoid a lot of anxiety.
This article will walk you through your first consultation with the orthodontist. You’ll learn what the process will be like, what you’ll learn while you’re there, and what questions you should make sure to ask.
So let’s waste no time! Your beautiful smile awaits.
- What is an Orthodontic Consultation?
- What Happens During an Orthodontic Consultation?
- Oral Examination
- Treatment Plan
- Coordinating Treatment
- Q and A
What is an Orthodontic Consultation?
Your braces consultation is more than just a chance for the orthodontist to see inside your mouth.
Find the Right Match
Your consultation is just as much for you as for your orthodontist. The meeting is your chance to evaluate whether or not the orthodontist is the right fit for you. It is fine to change your mind about where you want to receive treatment.
If the orthodontist you have chosen doesn’t match your needs or expectations, it’s better to find that out before committing to treatment. Transferring orthodontic treatment happens all the time.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions! The consultation is the best opportunity you will have to learn about the process. Remember: there are no stupid questions. It may even be helpful to write down a list of questions on a notepad or your phone. Add any questions you think of in the weeks and days leading up to your appointment to the list so you don’t forget to ask them.
Be Up Front
Explain your concerns about your teeth, and explain your dental and medical history as best you can. Don’t be embarrassed, and don’t try to hide anything. Now is the time to bring up any potential problems and discuss them with your orthodontist.
What Happens During an Orthodontic Consultation?
Now that you have an idea of what the consultation is for, let’s break down exactly what will happen during your consultation.
Paperwork and Medical History
The first thing your orthodontist will ask you for is information about your dental records. Depending on where you go, you may be able to complete some of these forms online ahead of time. You might need to request some paperwork from your dentist or your current orthodontist.
New Patient Intake Form
The new patient intake form is paperwork where you give your name, date of birth, and contact information. Intake paperwork will also clarify who is the responsible party for the treatment. It may be available online if your orthodontist has a website, or the office may email it to you.
The responsible party is the person who is financially responsible for the treatment. This person signs all the consent forms. The responsible party must be 18 or older. If you are a teenager, your parent or guardian will be the responsible party.
Medical History Forms
Your medical history is paperwork related to your physical health. The purpose of these forms is to determine whether you are physically healthy enough to undergo treatment. The paperwork will ask you about your health and the health of your parents and other family members.
It can be helpful to request medical paperwork from your doctor ahead of time so that you have it on hand when filling out the forms.
Dental History Forms
These forms are specific to your dental health. If your dentist and orthodontist are the same person, your orthodontist will already have this information. If not, or if you are seeing someone new, you’ll need to fill these out.
Your dental history includes any previous dental treatment, surgeries, accidents, and conditions like TMJ. It also includes your oral hygiene habits and whether you smoke, drink, or use drugs.
You should bring your insurance card and any related insurance forms to the consultation. The orthodontist’s office will take your card and call your insurance company to check your coverage status.
Try to find out ahead of time whether or not the orthodontist takes your insurance. Many insurance networks have online tools that can help you find an in-network provider.
The HIPAA form is a form explaining how the office will use your medical and dental histories. The law requires an office to maintain the privacy of your information.
HIPAA stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. It governs doctor/patient confidentiality.
The next step of your initial consultation is an oral exam. After you have completed your paperwork, someone will show you the facility and take you to an examination room or chair. Sometimes this person is your treatment provider—meaning, the orthodontist who will provide your treatment—or it may be an office assistant.
Some offices will take initial X-rays, photos, or bite scans during the first consultation. Don’t worry! This won’t hurt, and it doesn’t mean you’re getting braces today! It also shouldn’t cost you anything—most orthodontists offer a free initial consultation.
Double-check with your treatment provider before they take initial records. If they will charge you for them, make sure you’re comfortable with that.
After initial records have been taken, you’ll meet your orthodontist if you haven’t already. The orthodontist will ask you about your primary concern, or the main reason you’re seeking braces. This is called your “Chief Complaint.”
The orthodontist will physically examine your mouth, and may also look at your head, neck, jaw, and overall appearance. If you have any cysts, tumors, or other concerns, they will look at those. They will then look at your soft tissues such as gums, lips, tongue, and tonsils. Finally, they’ll look at your hard tissues—i.e., your teeth!
Once your orthodontist has completed a thorough examination of your mouth and talked to you about your Chief Complaint, they will create a treatment plan.
The “Problem List” is exactly what it sounds like: a list of problems that your orthodontist creates based on the examination. They will use your Chief Complaint to determine which problems on the list are most important.
Using the problem list, your dental history, and your initial records, your orthodontist will make a diagnosis. Your orthodontist will then use your diagnosis and prioritized problem list to come up with a treatment plan.
Your treatment plan lays out the individual steps involved in getting to your desired result. It also lays out a tentative timeline for treatment. Treatment times are difficult to estimate ahead of time because treatment times vary from person to person, and unforeseen events can sometimes extend treatment.
Your orthodontist will probably give you a window for treatment time, for example, 9-12 months, or 30-36 months.
Once you have a treatment plan, the next step is coordinating your treatment. This means sitting down with someone in the orthodontist’s office and discussing your timeline, financing, and options.
Depending on the type and severity of your Chief Complaint, some treatment options may or may not be available to you. For instance, some orthodontic issues can be solved with Invisalign, while others require metal braces. Some severe issues required headgear or lingual braces.
Your orthodontist office will clearly explain which treatment options are available to you, and which ones they recommend.
Once you’ve selected a treatment plan and have coordinated your treatment, the final step of the process is financing. Your orthodontist will collaborate with your insurance company to provide you with a quote and explain which parts of the financing you are responsible for.
Most orthodontists offer financing or payment plans. You won’t be expected to pay for everything upfront.
As part of the financing discussion, your orthodontist will have you sign a financial contract. This contract lays out the cost of your treatment, any associated fees, and what your insurance is expected to pay.
Be aware that by signing the financial contract, you are taking full responsibility for payment for the treatment. If your insurance stops paying for some reason, the burden of payment will fall on you.
This is a great time to ask questions to be sure you fully understand what your treatment entails, how much it costs, and how you will be paying for it.
The next form you’ll need to sign is the treatment consent form. This form states that you consent for yourself or your child to be treated by the orthodontist. If you are a teenager, your parent or guardian will sign the treatment consent form.
If you have any questions regarding the treatment consent form, don’t hesitate to ask.
The last form you’ll sign is the office policy form. By signing this form, you agree to abide by the orthodontist office’s policies, both in and out of the office. Office policy covers everything from expected behavior inside the office (no weapons, emergency procedures, general office policies, etc.) to expectations surrounding your care.
Q and A
If there are any questions you haven’t asked, make sure to ask them before you leave the office! Some questions you may want to ask include:
- What foods can I eat with braces?
- Can I start treatment if I have periodontal disease?
- Will the braces affect my speech?
- Can I use tooth whitening kits with braces on?
- Do I need to get my wisdom teeth out before getting braces?
- How long will the treatment take?
- How should I take care of my teeth while I have braces?
- What will happen when the braces come off?
- What happens if my treatment takes longer than expected?
Your first orthodontic consultation doesn’t have to be scary! Your orthodontist wants to make you feel as safe and comfortable as possible. From the moment you walk into the office to the last form you sign, their goal is to help you understand the process and answer all of your questions.
Being prepared will help you get the most out of your consultation and will prevent you from running into surprises down the road. Take a list of questions with you, and be prepared to be upfront and honest about your dental history and expectations.
Your orthodontist is somebody that you will work with closely for years to come! Make sure that you find the right fit for your needs.
Dr. Sarah Clarkson is an accomplished and dedicated orthodontist with over 15 years of experience in the dental field. She specializes in corrective orthodontics for both children and adults, with a particular focus on early intervention in pediatric patients. Her exceptional skills in applying braces, aligners, and other dental devices have provided countless patients with the confidence to smile freely.
Dr. Clarkson completed her Doctor of Dental Surgery degree at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry, one of the top dental schools in the nation. Afterward, she pursued her orthodontic specialty at the same institution, where she was awarded the prestigious Dr. Robert Ricketts Sunflower Orthodontics Fellowship for her exemplary work.
Always passionate about patient education, Dr. Clarkson takes the time to explain every treatment thoroughly, ensuring her patients understand the process and benefits of their orthodontic care. She strongly believes in a holistic approach to oral health and emphasizes the importance of regular dental care and a healthy lifestyle.
With a commitment to staying on top of the latest advancements in orthodontics, Dr. Clarkson regularly participates in continuing education and professional development activities. She is an active member of the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) and the American Dental Association (ADA).
In her free time, Dr. Clarkson enjoys spending time with her family, playing tennis, and painting.