Choosing an Orthodontist in Santa Maria California

Every family is likely to need an orthodontic specialist for special exams and braces.  The American Board of Orthodontics highly recommends a check up no later than age 7, and sooner if you notice any problems (  The typical age for orthodontic treatment is 9 to 14 years old, but even adults can benefit to correct conditions or increase self esteem.

Braces may involve a treatment period as long as 2 years with follow-up taking as long as 1-2 years.  That’s a big commitment, so you don’t want to stray too far from Santa Maria and you’ll want to be sure the dentist you choose is well qualified and that you’re comfortable working with them.

What is an Orthodontist?

An orthodontic specialist is an expert in dental and facial development and specializes in correcting crooked and improperly spaced teeth as well as over bites, under bites, and other conditions.  Procedures may be simply for appearance, but more often are for correcting issues that lead to difficult or uncomfortable eating, increased likelihood of tooth decay and gum disease, excess tooth wear, and jaw problems. Admission to the required the post-graduate programs is highly competitive.

What to Look For

A dental referral is not required, but asking a general dentist (especially your trusted family dentist) is a great way to start your homework.  Magazine and newspaper “best-of” lists are often more a popularity content than an assessment of training and professionalism.  Oral-B offers more great suggestions for how to choose an orthodontist on their website at  Your choice should be a board certified orthodontist, not a general dentist that also does braces.  If for a child younger than 9 or so your selection should have experience with early interceptive treatment, so you should ask about that.

What to Ask Before You Choose an Orthodontist

Here’s a quick checklist to help you choose an orthodontist that’s right for you.

  • What dental plans do they accept?  Do they offer financing or payment plans?
  • Are they up to date with the latest equipment such as digital x-rays?
  • How long has the orthodontist been in practice?  How long was their specialist training (that should be 2 to 3 years in addition to dental school)?
  • Can they provide references from prior patients?  If not you can check online reviews, but keep in mind that people are many times more likely to post a complaint than a complement.
  • Are they available for emergencies?
  • What alternative types of braces do they offer, and have experience with? Metal braces were developed way back in 1927.  “Clear” ceramic and porcelain alternatives were introduced back in the 1970s, and Invisalign was introduced in 1999.  Other options include lingual braces, attached behind the teeth.

First Consultation

The next step is to meet and discuss orthodontic treatment options.  An initial consultation usually takes around 45  minutes and includes taking a medical history, measurements, and full x-rays.  It should be free or low-cost, and it’s helpful to get a second or even third opinion so that you can make comparisons.  Here are a few things to consider.  Did they discuss exactly what is needed, including how long will it take, how frequent visits will be, and what the follow up will be?  Did that discussion include the details of your or your child’s condition along with treatment options and the consequences of no treatment?

Comfort and Confidence

It’s perfectly reasonable for your considerations to include how you feel about the dentist after you’ve met with them.  Was it easy to make the appointment?  Did the office seem friendly and welcoming?  You should also consider how well their office hours fit with work and school schedules.  Are they located nearby?  You’ll be making quite a few trips, so if you live in Santa Maria you probably don’t want to be driving all the way to San Louis Obispo.

Dr. Stacy Poole

If you live between SLO and Santa Barbara you’re likely to find our Santa Maria location to be a great choice.  Stacy L. Poole DMD is a board certified orthodontist and a Diplomate of the American Board of Orthodontics.  She is an active member of the American Association of Orthodontists and the Pacific Coast Society of Orthodontists.  We focus on modern alternatives to braces, preventive orthodontics, orthodontic surgery, and the treatment bruxism (tooth grinding).  All of us — Dr. Poole, Natascha Gamble, Amber Kimball, Erica Galindo, and Heather Vincent are dedicated to providing the highest quality care at affordable costs at our Santa Maria practice.

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