In today’s world, it is absolutely warranted to be skeptical of anyone, including doctors. I get it. I am often skeptical of health advice given to myself, my kids, and my family. As an orthodontist who has provided care for many years, I have seen these three tell-tale signs to be reliable indicators that you should switch orthodontists.

1. You should switch orthodontists if the provider is not a specialist in orthodontics.

Though they are skilled and excellent at their trade, a general (or cosmetic) dentist is similar to a family doctor who provides excellent care for your well-being and aids in disease prevention and treatment. Dentists are great for checkups, preventive care, fillings, and cosmetic procedures. Only about 6 percent of dentists are orthodontists.

Orthodontists are dentists who completed dental school and then attended a two- or three-year residency focused solely on orthodontics.. They are specialists who focus their practice on improving tooth alignment, correcting bite problems, managing TMJ (temporomandibular joint) issues, and designing smiles by gently straightening teeth.

Orthodontists also  limit their practices to orthodontics, so they do not do other dental services in their offices (such as fillings, cleanings, deep cleanings, root canals, tooth extractions, and so on). If someone offers braces (also called brackets) or Invisalign and also offers cleanings and fillings, he or she is not an orthodontist.

A true orthodontist has the training, experience, and treatment expertise to choose your best options and make sure you get your best smile.

2. You should switch orthodontists if the office is inefficient, unpleasant, and untrustworthy.

We all know that most doctors’ waiting rooms are exactly that: a place where you wait. Your orthodontist should value your time and be prompt in both welcoming you to the visit and getting you out within your scheduled time. The office itself should be run efficiently by an office manager, other office staff, and the provider(s). It is also worth considering how easy or difficult it is to get someone on the phone and how long it takes to hear back after leaving a message.

Newsflash: Orthodontic treatment does not have to be a scary or unpleasant experience. In fact, it can be fun! Advances in orthodontics make transforming your smile more comfortable than ever. Look for personal touches, fun contests, and rewards programs in an office to see how much your provider  truly cares about making the patient experience special. Each visit should be something to smile about!

There are a few ways to help sift out untrustworthy offices. First, do they support the community? The office should be committed to supporting local communities in a meaningful way, set an example for giving back to the children they treat, and provide treatment for underprivileged children in the area. Investing in the community shows an extra level of care for and commitment to others.

Second, are they sharing all the facts? Some offices have hidden fees that pop up during treatment. Broken braces, extra visits, treatment that extends past the estimated treatment time, canceled appointments, Invisalign refinements, retainers, and more can trigger hidden fees at many offices, raising the costs to much more than you bargained for. Be sure to read the fine print and don’t be fooled by low treatment fees when the actual total out-the-door cost is much higher. If the office does not openly share this information, they are not trustworthy.

3. You should switch orthodontists if the orthodontist has a bad reputation.

Do your research! Check social media sites like Google Plus and Facebook to see what others are saying about the office you’re considering.

On Yelp, make sure to look at the filtered reviews. Yelp has historically prioritized certain reviews for pay, so use caution when evaluating the validity of Yelp reviews. Facebook and Google Plus tend to be more reliable: they allow all reviews to be posted visibly, and they are not influenced by payment.

Be sure to ask your friends and neighbors what they have heard about local orthodontists. It is also advantageous to ask colleagues and the Human Resources department at work, as they may provide personal recommendations for orthodontists who are covered by your insurance plan. It is worth your while to do the research and ask the questions.

Choosing the right office and right treatment for you or your loved ones is a difficult decision, and the ever-growing number of options does not make choosing any easier. When in doubt, get a second opinion. If you get a few opinions that are consistent, chances are that the treatment, and the provider offering it, is in your best interest. Then let the orthodontist do his or her thing.