Invisalign on my own dime: orthodontics in Kitchener-Waterloo

I’ve been meaning to write about my experiences with Invisalign and the orthodontic consultation and treatment process since I started investigating various options in July 2014. On advice from my dentist Dr. Reddy and her staff at King Street Dental, I received several referrals to orthodontists in the KW area, and did my own research into reputation, pricing and treatment options.

Before getting into the orthodontic part of the piece, I would definitely recommend Dr. Reddy. In my experience, she handles both routine and emergency dental work to a very high standard.

Initially, Dr. Reddy suggested that she could extract one or more teeth to correct crowding in my lower jaw, but also indicated that I should look at orthodontic treatment as an alternative.

Evaluations

I received evaluations from three orthodontic practices in the Kitchener/Waterloo area:

TL;DR: Out of these three options, I opted for Invisalign treatment with RiteBite in August 2014 and began wearing the aligner trays in October 2014. As of October 2015 I am on a second box of trays, but from everything I’ve heard, I am on target to finish within 24 months.

My main concerns with orthodontic work were the following:

  • What is the cost? Despite the fact that I have health coverage through my employer, orthodontic coverage is generally limited to dependents under 19 years of age, so I’m on the hook for the whole bill. This is a common theme with corporate health benefits – even if you have 100% dental, orthodontic work is generally provided for your kids only.
  • Is it going to be a gigantic pain in the ass? I have heard horror stories of people breaking brackets and popping wires, unable to eat anything but soup after getting braces tightened, and having to use crappy plastic mouthguards or slimy retainers for the rest of their natural life. I also didn’t want things to drag on for months or years past the quoted timeframe.

I received significantly different options and opinions from each practice, so I’d highly recommend getting multiple evaluations performed. Payments are typically 0% financing with monthly installments over the expected course of the treatment, plus an upfront deposit. (You get a 2% to 5% discount at these practices for a lump sum payment, which I didn’t find to be worth it.)

Nicolucci

I first went to Nicolucci Orthodontics, based on the initial recommendation by Dr. Reddy. I’ll note that my experience may have been negatively biased by the fact that it was my first consultation, and I wasn’t quite ready to make a decision on braces vs. tooth yanking.

Dr. Mai performed an initial evaluation, and the results complicated the situation. Before they would perform any orthodontic work, they’d want one lower tooth extracted. She and her assistant also indicated that I would likely require gum grafts, and that they wouldn’t begin treatment until my gum health improved. Treatment time was 24 to 30 months and the only option available was traditional braces.

Pricing was the least expensive (not by much) of the three practices at $5500. After reviewing the documentation in preparation for this post, on top of that was a “diagnostic records fee” of $300. The initial deposit requested was $2200 (so really $2500), then $3300 spread out over 24 months.

Even though I knew my oral health wasn’t especially great, I didn’t think it was bad enough to warrant a hard stop. The experience was really discouraging. I wasn’t impressed that tooth extraction and additional procedures were going to be needed on top of braces.

TriCity

After the initial experience at Nicolucci, I wanted to price compare and see if there were other options available. TriCity was one of two additional referrals from Dr. Reddy’s office.

When I initially called to schedule the consultation, the receptionist indicated that there would be a $50 initial examination fee (which wasn’t listed on their website or referral card.) I balked a bit, and they were willing to waive the fee because “my dentist hadn’t mentioned it.” This was the only practice I went to that wanted to charge for the evaluation.

I was very impressed with Dr. Phan. He addressed all my questions, explained everything in a satisfactory fashion, and was upfront about timeline (24 months) and expected results. He and his assistant had no issues with my oral health and was willing to begin treatment immediately, using clear braces for the upper teeth and conventional metal brackets for the lower ones. He indicated this would give a better result in fixing the bottom crowding.

More critically, Dr. Phan did not want to extract any teeth, and suggested that if I did go ahead with any extraction operations, it could put me into a situation where I’d need up to four upper and lower teeth removed in order to get the results he wanted. His recommendation was to complete my other evaluations and then make a decision, but not to have any teeth pulled in the meantime.

Cost was the highest of the three options, at $6300. I don’t have a precise payment plan breakdown available but it also involved an upfront deposit followed by 24 months of equal payments.

Dr. Phan and TriCity ended up being a really close #2 in my evaluation – only beaten out by the later option of Invisalign with RiteBite.

RiteBite

My last stop was at RiteBite, which is Dr. Luis’ practice. They have three locations: Waterloo, Cambridge and Listowel. I’ve only ever been to the Waterloo location but apparently you can book appointments and receive treatment at any one of the offices.

Going into the office was a stark contrast to the other practices I had visited. All the chairs in the lobby were occupied by children and their parents, and this has been consistent at nearly every appointment I’ve been to since. It’s a bit of a zoo compared to the other options – TriCity was completely serene and had a very upscale waiting room, and Nicolucci had much more of a high-end surgical practice feel.

I was seen promptly, though, and one of the treatment coordinators took digital photos of various angles of my face and teeth, rather than having the orthodontist examine my mouth directly. I thought this was a novel and sensible approach. After a bit of evaluation of the pictures, Dr. Luis came in for a short discussion. The takeaway was his claim that “whatever I can do with braces, I can do with Invisalign” and that he also recommended against any tooth extraction prior to orthodontic work. Timeframe was quoted at 24 months as well.

Initially I wasn’t as comfortable with Dr. Luis as I was with Dr. Phan. Dr. Luis has an Bluetooth earpiece perpetually attached, and he seems in quite a hurry to get from patient to patient. The treatment room in the Waterloo office is an assembly line –  there are PCs at each station precisely timing the length of the visit based on the treatment plan for that appointment.

During later sessions, despite him clearly being torn in many directions, Dr. Luis has been quite friendly and given me his full attention when I posed questions. I also have to compliment the treatment staff: they are clearly on a tight schedule but are professional and perform tasks the right way, not just the fast way.

Pricing was the middle option – $5880 total (equal cost, regardless of braces or Invisalign choice), and the financial coordinator was easy to work with. My initial deposit could have been as low as $500, with the remainder of the balance spread out into payments over 24 months. They were also willing to charge my credit card on a recurring monthly basis for the instalments.

After a few email followups with my treatment coordinator and some research about Invisalign versus conventional braces, I ended up signing the treatment forms and going with Dr. Luis and RiteBite for this work.

What’s next?

A subsequent post will provide further details on Invisalign and RiteBite, having spent a year living with the trays and treatment. As a preview, though, I definitely recommend RiteBite/Dr. Luis and Invisalign as an orthodontic treatment option if it’s available.

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