Choosing A Doctor
“Shopping” for a doctor to treat jaw problems can be difficult and confusing, especially in this age of the internet and aggressive marketing campaigns employed by some dentists. There are three primary factors to consider when choosing who to see: Qualifications, Treatment Methods, and Fees.
There are a few ways patients can determine who is the best qualified to consult with. One way is to go to the doctor’s web site and look for all the services they offer. Dentists who claim expertise in “smiles”, cosmetic dentistry, implants, and crowns, in addition to jaw disorders, are likely to treat jaw problems as a sideline rather that as a primary focus of their practice.
A second way to inquire about a dentist’s qualifications is to determine if they are board certified by one of the professional jaw organizations. There are two: the American Board of Orofacial Pain, and the American Board of Craniofacial Pain. Be aware that being a member of an organization is not the same as being board certified.
Unfortunately, there is little consensus about the optimum way to treat jaw problems and related pain in the face, head, and neck. Treatment methods vary widely. While some treatment methods appear to “work”, they can obligate the patient to thousands of dollars in unnecessary dental work after jaw treatment is completed. Some jaw treatment actually causes a bite problem for the patient. It would be wise to ask the office how often their dentist recommends braces or dental work to correct a bite problem after jaw treatment is completed. This is known as “phase II” treatment, and it has been scientifically proven to be unnecessary in most cases.
Fees for treatment for a jaw disorder can vary greatly. There are several reasons for this. Obviously, some jaw problems are more serious than others. It would therefore be inappropriate to charge every patient the same fee for treatment. It is impossible to determine how serious a jaw problem is without a thorough examination and x-rays of the jaw joints. Today, the standard of care in jaw diagnosis is a CT scan. It is far superior to dental x-rays in determining the seriousness and prognosis for a particular patient. It requires a lengthy appointment and a great deal of the doctor’s time to fully evaluate a patient’s condition and to determine all the causes of their symptoms.
Therefore, when inquiring about the initial fee for a jaw evaluation, ask if the fee includes the cost of a CAT scan, and ask how much of the doctor’s time is reserved for your initial visit (in our office it is 70 min).
Because every patient is different, the fees for treatment can vary widely. However, treatment should not exceed $3,500, even for a difficult case. As mentioned above, some dentists will quote a fee for jaw treatment, but then after jaw treatment is completed they will tell the patient they need to pay much more for braces or crowning of the teeth. This is not only unnecessary in most cases; it is unethical and misleading to the patient.
Additional information on this subject can be found on our site at What Patients Should Know Before Seeking Treatment