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Practitioner and Patient Perceptions of Orthodontic Treatment: Is the Patient Always Right?


  • This article is accompanied by commentary, Practitioner and Patient Perceptions of Orthodontic Treatment: Is the Patient Always Right?, David M. Sarver, DMD, MS. DOI 10.1111/j.1708-8240.2011.00456.x

Dr. Nathan McKeta, DMD, 3404 Salterbeck Ct # 204, Mt. Pleasant, SC 29466-7119, USA; Tel.: 843-971-6864; email:



Purpose:  As dentists embrace evidence-based clinical practice, we place increased emphasis on patient values. Standards like Angle Classification are not related to patient perceptions of the tangible benefits of treatment. This study quantifies the differences dentists and patients perceive in orthodontic treatment outcome.

Materials and Methods:  A survey is used to quantify a patient's perception of orthodontic treatment. It was completed by 30 patients who completed treatment at the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine. Their responses were compared with the perceptions of five orthodontists, three general dentists, and two prosthodontists.

Results:  Multivariate analysis of variance found the differences between and within the subjects to be significant at p < 0.004. Univariate analysis of variance of the initial scores showed the data to be significant at p < 0.002 and pairwise comparisons showed significant mean differences. Final score analysis of variance was significant at p < 0.001 and pairwise comparison showed significant mean differences.

Conclusions:  Patients and general dentists have a significantly less favorable initial perception of their dental esthetics and function when compared with orthodontists. Final scores of esthetic and functional perceptions between the patients and all three dentist groups showed significant differences, with patients perceiving the results of their treatment more favorably than practitioners.


The data herein elucidates differences in the value systems of professionals and patients. It is meant to encourage dentists to consider whether these differences justify the persistence of traditional orthodontic treatment goals or if treatment planning should incorporate consideration of each individual patient's preferences to maximize utility.

(J Esthet Restor Dent 24:40–52, 2012)