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How Long Is an Orthodontist Appointment?

How Long Is an Orthodontist Appointment?

A Complete Guide to Appointment Lengths

Are you curious to know just how long orthodontic appointments take? Perhaps you have heard stories from friends or family about an appointment taking a short time or a really long time? In this article, we discuss everything about orthodontic appointments from discussing why appointments are different lengths, why different offices have shorter or longer appointments, and how our appointment length at Skarin Orthodontics is unique. We’ll also give you some considerations to keep in mind when looking for an orthodontist and thinking about the length of your appointments.

The Length of Appointment Depends On Your Procedure

Orthodontic offices have various kinds of appointments, but to keep things simple, there are three main types of appointments: adjustment/check-in appointments, placement appointments, and initial appointments or consultations. The length of your orthodontic appointments can vary greatly depending on which of these three appointment types you are coming in for. We will cover each of these appointment types in further detail below.

Adjustment/check-in appointments are appointments for patients that are coming in after their initial placement appointment. Adjustment/check-in appointments are much shorter. If your appointment is for checking your retainer, taking an impression, taking scans, or adjusting a removable appliance, your appointment will only take about 10-20 minutes. If your appointment is for wire adjustments for your braces or taking records before beginning treatment, these appointments take about 15-30 minutes.

A placement appointment is for when you have made your decision on the treatment you would like. It is at this point, you will come in for a placement appointment to have your braces, aligners, or any other procedure, applied or removed from your teeth. This can include placing braces or aligners on the teeth and/or removing them. These appointments take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour.

The third appointment type is an initial appointment or consultation. These appointments are for taking full orthodontic records in order to establish your treatment plan. We also discuss all potential treatment possibilities and any concerns that might arise during the course of treatment. This appointment is comprehensive and discusses everything from treatment, forms of retention, mid-treatment options if problems arise due to lack of patient compliance, and any and all questions you may have. To discuss all of these topics, the appointment or consultation can take as long as an hour or more.

Every Office Has Different Lengths For Appointments

When it comes to orthodontic appointments, not all orthodontists are the same. For example, some orthodontists may have shorter consultation appointments while others may have longer check-in appointments. The length of your appointment can vary greatly depending on the orthodontic office. Not all orthodontists are the same and there can be a lot of variability due to how a practice is set-up.

Some orthodontic offices prioritize higher volume. High volume practices employ multiple chair-side assistants (perhaps one per chair) and most of the actual physical contact on your teeth is done by the assistant. After the assistant is finished with the work on your teeth, an orthodontist will stop by as more of an overseer and directive role to make sure the work done by the assistant is done well. The orthodontist may do some work on your teeth, but it is usually minimal. Afterwards, the orthodontist will then move from chair to chair checking on the work of other assistants working on patients on the multiple chairs. Oftentimes, the orthodontist needs to instruct the assistant on the next archwire adjustment or replacement and then will come back later, which results in more time for the patient waiting for the orthodontist to come back when he or she is free.

It is important to keep in mind that at practices that are more high volume focused and use multiple chairs and assistants, patients often have to spend time waiting for the orthodontist as they move from chair to chair. A good assistant will converse or perhaps take pictures or do other things to pass the time.

The bottom line here is that for large practices to see more patients, more use of assistants and delegation of treatment communication to treatment coordinators and treatment consultants is necessary. The result for the patient and your family is longer appointment times, less connection with the doctor, and likely, a more “streamlined” approach for the office that will incorporate procedures the assistants are most comfortable with and not necessarily the treatment that would be most ideal for the patient. Not all orthodontic practices do things this way, but a good amount do. This style has pluses, but there are significant minuses as well.

Other orthodontic offices take a more patient-centered approach, which requires more custom work and more time one-on-one between patient and doctor. This approach is more of the traditional style of how orthodontic work has been done. Since more time is spent one-on-one with the doctor, the appointments are much quicker since time is not spent with assistants or waiting for the orthodontist to come by the chair. Appointments are also much more flexible in terms of what can be accomplished in less time since the orthodontist, being the most skilled in all treatments, is doing all the work themselves as opposed to having an assistant do the work. Obviously, this office may have the upside of generally having shorter appointments, but it does mean more work for the orthodontist and less volume of patients in the office.

Ultimately, the style of orthodontic office you choose can affect how long or short your appointments are. Each office is different though. Some might have specific treatments that are shorter and exclusively with the orthodontist. Some might use assistants for every chair. Some may have a short initial consultation while others may have a full length initial consultation right from the start. It really does change quite a bit from practice to practice.

How Our Appointments Are Unique

At Skarin Orthodontics, we specialize in patient centered care. We like to be as patient focused as we possibly can. For us, this means the doctor spends every minute of every appointment with his patients. We care most about serving our patients as best as we possibly can, first and foremost. We see office efficiency as frequently prioritizing the office bottom line as opposed to prioritizing the patient first and foremost. As such, we do not use chairside assistants. All adjustments, records, consultations, retainer appointments and patient/parent communications are done personally by the doctor.

People are often surprised that having the doctor so heavily involved in every aspect of treatment reduces appointment times. Why does it reduce appointment time? There is no waiting for the orthodontist to come chairside to evaluate, give the chairside assistant the next step to carry out, then return again after checking on all the other patients that are in the multiple chairs waiting on the orthodontist to visit them to OK the adjustments. This personalized treatment means considerably shorter appointments [link] as well as personalized service for the patient. This does limit the number of patients the office can treat. However, for orthodontists like Dr. Skarin, the trade-off for better results for the patient at the expense of a better bottom line is well worth it and the right way to practice in our view!

Things To Consider About Appointment Length

When trying to make a decision about whether you might prefer an orthodontist with longer appointments or shorter appointments, consider what matters most to you. There are many different orthodontic practices and each of them has their own style. While it is important to find a style that fits your healthcare needs, we would also suggest asking the orthodontic practice as many questions as you can so you can feel comfortable with the entire process of treatment. We might suggest you also ask what happens if treatment does not go as well as expected.

When it comes to appointment length, consider the fact that fewer appointments does not necessarily mean less time at the orthodontist. It also does not necessarily mean your cost will be less. In practices that have short 10 minute appointments, you may have more check-in appointments than a practice that advertises fewer appointments overall, but the overall amount of time you are in the office is often less than going to an orthodontist that has fewer but longer appointments. Obviously, your length of treatment plays a factor in how much time you will save overall.

It is also important to consider that fewer appointments does not necessarily mean better if appointments are few and far between. Good orthodonitc care happens with good oversight from the orthodontist. Visiting your orthodontist frequently during treatment can mean the difference between staying on track and finishing up quickly or going off track and having delays in finishing treatment.

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