Myths Be Gone! Dr. Hiller Debunks Seven Myths about Orthodontic Treatment

October is National Orthodontic Health Month

It’s the perfect time of year for Dr. Hiller, a member of the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO), to join forces with the AAO to set the record straight on seven common myths about orthodontic treatment.

Myth #1. Anyone who provides braces or clear aligners is an orthodontist.
Some providers of braces or clear aligners are not orthodontists. To be an orthodontist means a doctor has graduated from dental school, and then successfully completed 2-3 years of study in an accredited orthodontic residency program. Only doctors with this level of formal orthodontic education may ethically call themselves “orthodontists.”

Just as there are specialists in medicine, such as cardiologists, orthopedic surgeons, neurologists, etc., there are specialists in dentistry.  Orthodontists’ education is comparable to the path medical doctors take to become specialists – it’s the years-long course of post-dental school education in the orthodontic specialty, along with mastery of the specialty, that makes an orthodontist a specialist.  You wouldn’t rely on your primary care doctor to set a complex bone fracture, it would be an orthopedic surgeon.  Similarly, your AAO orthodontist has more specific training and experience to correct your misaligned bite (the way top and bottom teeth meet) than your general dentist.

Those studying to be orthodontists learn proper and safe tooth movement (orthodontics) and the guidance of dental, jaw and facial development (dentofacial orthopedics), to properly care for patients of all ages. This makes orthodontists the dental profession’s experts in moving teeth and aligning jaws. It’s why only orthodontists can become members of the AAO.

By selecting an AAO orthodontist, you are choosing a specialist in orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics who possesses the skills and experience to give you your best smile.

Myth #2. Orthodontists are so expensive.
Like beauty, “expensive” is in the eye of the beholder. Orthodontists charge for the professional service they provide – carefully customizing each patient’s treatment, and expertly guiding teeth and jaws into a healthy and beautiful smile. Affordability of expert care is the icing on the cake, thanks to the flexible payment plans orthodontists offer. Working with an AAO orthodontist for a healthy bite and great smile is an investment in a lifetime of good oral health and whole body health.

Teeth are able to move because the bone that holds them in place dissolves and re-forms, a biological process carefully guided, step-by-step, by the orthodontist, who also regularly assesses the health of patients’ teeth and gums.  By the time someone who attempts to move teeth without an orthodontist recognizes something is wrong, the damage done may be beyond repair, even with professional help.  Restoring lost teeth is costly, and requires life-long maintenance.

Orthodontists are highly educated specialists whose professional service is one of the best values in healthcare today.  It’s a mistake to think of orthodontic treatment in terms of being “one size fits all” or being a particular device.  Orthodontists base a patient’s diagnosis and treatment on findings of in-person exams and study of records such as x-rays. A unique plan for the movement of teeth and jaws is prescribed, and patients see the orthodontist while teeth are being moved to ensure treatment is on track and teeth and gums stay healthy.

It’s in the patient’s best, and safest, interest for their teeth to be moved under the direct and ongoing supervision of an AAO orthodontist. A perceived “bargain” doesn’t guarantee a healthy outcome. Don’t gamble on your teeth – see an AAO orthodontist.

Myth #3. Office visits are not necessary to get straight teeth.
It’s essential to visit the orthodontist and your general dentist when teeth are being moved.  The dentist will check for cavities and provide professional cleaning, while the orthodontist will monitor the correct movement of the teeth and jaws, and, importantly, personally evaluate the health of the teeth and gums. By being seen regularly, should a problem arise, the patient will benefit from the orthodontist’s timely action.

Myth #4. Orthodontic treatment takes years.
Today’s orthodontic treatment is measured in months. But keep in mind that quicker doesn’t equal better. It’s the controlled application of constant, gentle forces under the personal supervision of the orthodontic specialist that gets the job done.

The time treatment takes directly depends on the difficulty of the patient’s problem and what the patient wants. Orthodontic treatment can be as easy as a short-term cosmetic touch-up to a complete bite correction. An AAO orthodontist has the skills and experience to deliver excellent results in the least amount of time.

Take advertised claims about orthodontic treatment completed in a few months with a grain of salt. Many times, such treatment is aimed at moving some of the front teeth, without correcting the bite. This could severely alter the way the teeth fit together and lead to abnormal wear and tear. Trust your AAO orthodontist to realistically estimate the amount of time needed to create a beautiful and healthy smile.

Myth #5. Orthodontic treatment is only cosmetic.
There’s much more to orthodontic treatment than meets the eye. An improved appearance is the most obvious result. But when teeth and jaws are in alignment, it means function (biting, chewing, speaking) is improved, too – a dual treatment benefit!

That beautiful smile is the outward sign of good oral health, and sets the stage for the patient’s overall well-being. Orthodontists play a larger role in healthcare than is generally realized.

Myth #6. Orthodontists only offer braces.
Because of their education, expertise and experience in all aspects of orthodontic treatment, orthodontists utilize the full range of “appliances,” including the many types of braces available (standard, ceramic, gold-colored, behind-the-teeth), as well as clear aligners and removable devices.  AAO orthodontists are uniquely qualified to recommend the most appropriate type of treatment to correct an individual’s problem resulting in a healthy, well-aligned and beautiful smile.

Myth #7. Orthodontic treatment is just for kids.
Kids can benefit from orthodontic treatment, but so can teens and adults. In 2014, 1,460,000 adults were being treated by AAO orthodontists. Age is not a factor when it comes to getting a healthy, beautiful smile. Because adults may have special needs from prior dental work or gum disease, it is especially important that their orthodontic treatment be conducted under the direct, ongoing supervision of an AAO orthodontist.

For more information, visit Dr. Dennis Hiller’s website,, or the AAO’s website,