The world of orthodontics is not as simple as bonding some braces on to the teeth. Quite the contrary, there is a lot of planning, discussion, and decision making that is involved in a child’s orthodontic treatment process. There is also often an aspect of financial planning involved with regards to the payment process. Unfortunately, this can sometimes come as a shock to parents when they come into an orthodontic office for the first time. Rarely, will the appointment be as simple as determining whether or not the child requires braces.
Now imagine how this scenario may change in the circumstance of a family where the parents are separated or divorced, where there is only one legal guardian, or where the person attending the appointment with the child does not have legal custody or decision making power (for example another relative/sibling or other unrelated individual/caretaker).
Prior to the start of any orthodontic treatment, in addition to organizing the finances and determining a payment plan, there is always a requirement for consent by a legal guardian. So let’s consider the following example where a child (let’s call him Billy) lives with mom for part of the week and dad for the other part of the week. However, it is only mom who has sole custody (decision making authority). What this essentially means is even though Billy spends time with both parents, it is only his mom who can consent for treatment. Billy arrives for his orthodontic consultation with his dad only and they decide they are ready to go ahead and get started with treatment. However until mom signs off on the contract and all documentation, they will not be able to proceed. If Billy’s mom knew about what may be involved with beginning orthodontic treatment then the family could have planned better in advance to ensure mom was present at the appointment.
The above example illustrates why it’s always important to consider any different family dynamics that may exist across today’s modern families prior to visiting the orthodontist for the first time. Of course it’s ideal to have all family members participate in the process, but in cases where that may not be possible make sure you are aware of any unique decision-making situations that may exist for your family.