This story is from UCLA Today, a discontinued print and web publication.

Getting it straight - and cheaper - at Dentistry's clinics


Resident Janet Schrodi adjusts Matthew Marks’ braces in the UCLA Orthodontic Clinic.

UCLA Today Staff

Thinking about getting that perfect smile, but not sure you can afford it? The UCLA Orthodontic Clinic could be the answer.

For more than two decades, the School of Dentistry clinic has been treating patients of all ages — 35% are over 21 currently — for an average 40% less than what private orthodontic practices charge, although costs can vary, depending on treatment and the provider.

The most common services provided at the UCLA ortho clinic are braces — both the traditional and clear types — and Invisalign (clear, removable aligners that straighten teeth without wires or brackets). The clinic stays abreast of the most up-to-date technologies available.

Karyn M. Marks, a transplant coordinator in the Dumont-UCLA Transplant Center, has been bringing her son Matthew, 14, to the clinic for three years.

“It’s been a really pleasant experience,” the UCLA employee said. “The care that Matthew’s received here has been impeccable. It’s also a lot less expensive. He had a lot of reconstructive work; had that work been done through a private physician, it would have cost a fortune.”

Patients are seen by dental students and residents under faculty supervision. The residents come from the top 3% of their dental school classes, said Leroy Vego, a dentist who directs the orthodontics postgraduate program.

Each year, about 6,700 apply to residency programs in orthodontics in Canada, the United States and Puerto Rico. In all, only 290 are accepted, Vego said, “and we usually get the top pick. It’s an exclusive club. People have no idea how many want to get in and how few we can take because the amount of training they get is so intense.”

Because of the level of supervision, visits to the clinic may take longer than those in private practice. However, for many, it’s worth the lower price, the convenience of being on campus and the close interaction between doctor and patient.

“What’s great about our program is that we’re the doctors who treat the patient,” said Janet Schrodi, Matthew’s doctor and a resident in pediatric dentistry and orthodontics. “Sometimes in a really fast-paced private practice, the orthodontist is overseeing treatment and is not necessarily the person doing the work.”

With the resident there, Matthew’s mother can ask questions directly. Matthew was born without two permanent teeth, so his treatment includes closing that gap. “On every visit we show Mrs. Marks how the progress is coming along,” Schrodi said.

Added Karyn Marks, “It’s been really nice to know exactly what’s going on.” Matthew concurred. “I really like their attitude, they’re not pushy,” he said. “The doctors let you understand what they’re doing.”

Matthew said the experience has inspired him to pursue orthodontics as a career. He’s already begun taking Latin classes in preparation.

In July, the clinic will move to a new location in the Center for Health Sciences that will triple the amount of space it has to treat patients. The clinic, which accepts dental insurance, also offers interest-free payment plans for certain services.

For more information, or to schedule an appointment, call (310) 825-5161.

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