What To Ask When Choosing An Orthodontist

Making the decision to improve your oral health and straighten your smile with orthodontic treatment is a big deal! Your smile is important and you don’t want to trust it to just anyone! Here at Smith & Heymann Orthodontics, we want you to feel empowered and informed during every step of your orthodontic journey. That’s why we’ve put together a list of what to ask when choosing an orthodontist.   

If you’ve been considering pursuing orthodontic treatment, but aren’t quite sure where to start, our team is here for you. Keep reading below as we take a closer look at what to ask when choosing an orthodontist!

Are you a trained orthodontic specialist?

While it might feel like stating the obvious, this is probably the most important question you can ask when contemplating braces or clear aligner therapy! That’s because some general dentists are also able to provide orthodontic treatment, even though they don’t specialize in it. A dentist will usually offer common dental services such as crowns, fillings, and dentures, as well as the occasional orthodontic treatment, such as clear aligner therapy. An orthodontist, on the other hand, is dedicated to providing only orthodontic services. 

This distinction is incredibly important. Imagine for a moment that you or your child required specialized treatment or surgery. Would you feel comfortable with your family physician handling your case, or would you prefer a dedicated specialist? Orthodontists are dentists who also have several years of additional specialized training and experience in orthodontics. That means an orthodontist has:

  • studied the growth and maturation of the teeth and jaw
  • been introduced to numerous case studies
  • developed diagnostic skills
  • learned biomechanical techniques to properly move teeth
  • studied how to change the development of the dental alveolar complex and facial  growth of younger patients

Since orthodontic residency programs are extremely competitive, only the top students in any dental school’s graduating class are accepted. These orthodontic programs tend to last around 2-3 years and include full-time training that focuses on correcting orthodontic issues using braces and aligners. While there are always exceptions to every rule, most dentists will not possess the same level of exhaustive orthodontic training and experience.

Each of our doctors was born and raised in North Carolina and are passionate about providing their communities with high-quality orthodontic care. With years of education and experience between them, Drs. J. Dempsey Smith, Gavin Heymann, and Katya Skillestad have the skills necessary to give you the smile of your dreams. 

Here at Smith & Heymann Orthodontics, our only focus is on orthodontic care and treatment. 

Our doctors straighten teeth and correct orthodontic issues every day. The entire Smith & Heymann Orthodontics team stays up to date on the latest industry practices by regularly continuing education courses. We have also equipped our Durham, Mebane, and Roxboro offices with the most current orthodontic equipment in order to better serve our patients. We’re committed to providing you with the best in high-quality, individualized orthodontic care!

What treatment options do you have available?

At Smith & Heymann Orthodontics, we are proud to offer a wide variety of orthodontic treatments to patients of all ages, including traditional metal braces and clear aligner therapy with Invisalign. 

Metal braces

Traditional metal braces are still the most widely used orthodontic appliance, and have come a long way in recent years! They are typically made of a mix of high-grade stainless steel, nickel, and other durable metals. Bands wrap around the back molars, and smaller metal brackets are cemented to the front surfaces of the other teeth. There is also a thin, springy metal wire that runs through the brackets, which may be attached to the brackets by flexible elastics, metal ties, or another type of clasp. All of these components come together to gently guide your teeth into the desired positions over time.

Metal braces are a reliable, effective, and economical option. They’re also more comfortable and customizable than ever before. With smaller, lighter brackets and a multitude of colored bands to choose from, metal braces are a perfect fit for every personality!


The Invisalign system is made up of a series of customized aligners that are nearly invisible and completely removable. Unlike traditional braces, no brackets and wires are needed to move the teeth! This offers patients a measure of freedom and flexibility that traditional braces just can’t beat. Designed to fit snugly but comfortably over your own teeth, Invisalign provides a more subtle and comfortable orthodontic experience. When worn the recommended 20-22 hours per day, and changed out weekly with the next in the set, these aligners will gradually move your teeth into the desired positions.

Invisalign Teen

Although Invisalign and Invisalign Teen work the same way when it comes to the underlying technology, Invisalign Teen was developed with the unique needs of teen patients in mind. There are a few special features that are specific to the Invisalign Teen system, including the following:

Compliance indicators

To help teens stick to their treatment plan, Invisalign Teen has a compliance indicator incorporated into each aligner. This will fade from blue to clear as it is used, providing a visual approximation of wear. This lets patients, parents, and orthodontists keep track of patient use. If a teen is skipping out on hours, it will be noticeable in enough time for us to correct compliance, thus keeping the overall process moving along at the right speed.

Eruption tabs

This feature accommodates the growth of the second molars in young adults, helping to keep space open for unerupted teeth and making it possible to treat a wider range of conditions with Invisalign.

Replacement aligners

We all lose or damage things from time to time. While we encourage all of our Invisalign patients to be careful with their aligners, teens don’t need to worry about misplacing or losing one. Invisalign Teen anticipates it happening, and provides up to six replacement aligners at no charge, just in case!

How frequent are follow-up visits in the office?

Whatever your treatment plan, you can expect regular visits to your orthodontist. If you have braces, adjustment appointments will be scheduled every 4-6 weeks or so. During these visits, your doctor will replace any worn-out rubber bands, check your teeth’s progress, and make adjustments to the wires to ensure the teeth are being pulled in the right direction. Invisalign patients may be seen slightly less frequently, but these appointments are still an essential part of the orthodontic process. 

Although treatment time varies from case to case, the average patient will spend anywhere from 1-3 years in braces or aligners. Be prepared to see us regularly! We know how busy our families are, and your time is valuable to us. That’s why we never overbook patients and always aim to see you at your scheduled time!


Expertise you can trust at Smith & Heymann Orthodontics

For a truly exceptional orthodontic experience, you can’t do better than Smith & Heymann Orthodontics! You’ll receive a personalized treatment plan and unmatched care from your first appointment to your last. Since their sole specialty is orthodontics, our doctors have the experience and expertise necessary to give you nothing but the best in treatments, cost, and efficiency as you work towards a straighter smile.

If you’re ready to take the first step in your orthodontic journey, we would love to meet you! When you schedule a FREE consultation with our office, you’ll receive a thorough examination by one of our doctors. They’ll discuss any diagnosis with you and outline what your next steps should be. This is a no-pressure appointment! Even if you decide not to pursue orthodontic treatment right away, our team will be happy to answer any questions or address any concerns you might have in order to help you make an informed decision. Once you know what to ask when choosing an orthodontist, you’ll be able to make the best decision for your care.

There’s never been a better time to go after the smile you’ve always wanted, so contact our office today to schedule your FREE consultation!