Trends in the choice of a clinician for orthodontic treatment in the United States

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American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics


Introduction: This study evaluated the trends in orthodontic practitioner choice over the past 15 years and explored the lay public's understanding of different orthodontic practitioner options in the U.S., specifically, orthodontists compared with general dentists. Methods: A survey was distributed to a representative sample of laypersons in the U.S. The response rate was 90.2%, and 727 completed responses were analyzed. Results: A 28.2% shift away from orthodontists toward general dentists over the last 15 years was significant (P <0.001). The 2 most frequently endorsed ways respondents found their orthodontic practitioners were a recommendation from another dentist (54.2%) and their family's general dentist who offered orthodontic treatment in-house (22.9%). Respondents’ knowledge of orthodontists was limited; 85.0% believed that dentists who perform orthodontic treatment are also orthodontic specialists. Only 17.1% of respondents disagreed with the statement that “a dentist who advertises orthodontic treatment is an orthodontic specialist.” In addition, 89.7% were not aware that a dentist could not be called an orthodontist without separate training from an accredited residency program. Finally, 64.2% of respondents did not know that an orthodontist must complete more education than a general dentist. Conclusions: Over the past 15 years, the percentage of orthodontic patients treated by general dentists has increased significantly. The public's ability to differentiate between different types of orthodontic practitioners is poor, showing substantial confusion about orthodontists’ qualifications. Most respondents believed that orthodontists are best suited for their orthodontic treatment, but they rely heavily on their general dentists for orthodontic practitioner decisions.

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