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Most patients seeking significant medical or dental care are aware of the importance of obtaining a second opinion. The basis for a second opinion is primarily to increase the confidence in a proposed treatment course and the provider. Unfortunately, sometimes second or third opinions result in two or three different treatment options, which can be quite frustrating and confusing.

Is a second opinion necessary?

Many times patients wonder if it is even necessary to obtain a second opinion. Most people spend an incredible amount of time researching their next car or boat purchase. Why would medical or dental care be any less important? If there is any doubt about what has been proposed by the orthodontist, a second opinion may be a good idea. If the orthodontist describes a diagnosis and treatment plan that is fairly straightforward, and the office had been highly recommended by a dentist or friend, it may not be entirely necessary. Although, there are many other factors besides the treatment plan that can be evaluated as well. This would include the personality of the doctor and staff, the office environment, appointment availability, and the cost of treatment.

Different opinions

It is important to remember that different orthodontists may use different techniques and procedures for the same problems. In fact, there may be many good ways to treat the same problem. Orthodontists trained in different parts of the country may have used various appliances and techniques for treatment. What may be difficult to discern is what the best option may be for the patient, or if the differences are even significant.

When to seek a second opinion

If a patient is unsure about what the best treatment plan may be, there are some indications that can be used to help make a decision to seek an additional opinion. If an orthodontist claims to always do treatment a certain way for all patients, this may be a warning to be wary. For example, if an orthodontist claims to never or always pull teeth. Most orthodontists and patients seeking treatment understand the variability present among the human population. Therefore, this claim should probably indicate that a second opinion might be in order.

If the patient or parents are not comfortable with a proposed treatment, the orthodontist should be able to provide a good explanation for the rationale behind the recommendations. If this is not provided as expected, an additional consultation may be helpful.


Patients and parents should never be pressured into making a decision about treatment right away. There are times when efficiency and speed may be desirable to a patient. Many teens (and some adults) are so excited about beginning treatment immediately, that there is little time to evaluate the options. However, there are many factors to consider. The risks of not fully thinking through a proposed treatment plan and the potential complications can be high. Obtain another opinion if a high pressure environment is preventing a full evaluation of the treatment options.

Be aware that orthodontists in similar geographic areas may be competitors. Orthodontists will generally provide good ethical second opinions, but there may be other factors that can influence their judgment. Therefore, it is highly recommended that the results of a previous consultation not be revealed prior to the second exam. This will provide a true second opinion without allowing the second opinion to be influenced by a previous orthodontist. If different treatment recommendations are given at subsequent exams, a discussion of the differences with each orthodontist may help determine if they are significant.

Advantages of a second opinion

A second opinion may provide a way to offer more assurance about the selected orthodontic office. One of the biggest factors to consider is the amount of time an orthodontist spends with the patient. They should attempt to answer all questions and give a thorough explanation about proposed treatment options. While the orthodontist may not have a definite answer for every aspect of treatment without full records and x-rays, they should be able to provide enough information to help make a decision.

Most importantly, a general comfort level should be associated with the orthodontist that ultimately is chosen to perform the treatment. This tends to be more of a subjective assessment, since some patients and parents will feel more comfortable with certain doctors and staff. The confidence in the doctor and ultimately the success of treatment may in large part be based on trust between the patient and doctor. If this is lacking, there may be dissatisfaction or disappointment in the treatment process.