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In order minimize the chances of encountering problems during and after treatment, it is strongly recommended that any person who is contemplating orthodontic care ensures that the professional who will deliver this care is indeed an orthodontist rather than a general dentist offering orthodontic services.
Taking the simple precautions described below to ensure that your provider is in fact an orthodontist can help prevent hardships like the ones depicted in this unfortunate story that made national news:
While it is not illegal for a general dentist to offer orthodontic treatment of any degree of difficulty, prospective patients should be aware of all their options, including the option to directly seek the opinion of an orthodontist on their own without the need for a referral.
Making this distinction can be confusing since the natural assumption is that any dentist who has taken courses in orthodontics is an orthodontist, but this is not at all the case; in fact, immediately upon graduation from dental school, a dentist may legally offer the full gamut of orthodontic services without any further training at all. To make this task even more difficult for prospective patients, some dental offices insinuate that their dentists are also orthodontists just because they have followed orthodontic courses and seminars for which they have received diplomas or certificates – this too is entirely false. For more information on what is required to earn the title of “Orthodontist”, please review the section What is an Orthodontist?.
A simple way of distinguishing an orthodontist from a dentist who offers orthodontics services is to ask what types of services are offered by the provider in question: orthodontic care is the exclusive service provided by an orthodontist, while a general dentist who offers orthodontic services will also –and predominantly– provide other types of dental services such as fillings, cleaning, etc.
This being said, the surest way to verify that your orthodontic service provider is indeed an orthodontist is to call the provincial dental licensing body to ask if the provider in question is indeed a certified specialist in orthodontics. In Quebec, it is l’Ordre des dentistes du Québec, and the phone number is 514.875.8511.