Howard Lang, DDS

The office is permanently closed and Dr. Lang has retired.
The information here is for historical purposes.

Howard Lang, DDS - Humboldt County Orthodontist

3124 H. Street, Eureka, Ca 95503 - (707) 443-2711

3124 H. Street















This is the FAQ page with the categories fully expanded.
Click here to return to the original FAQ page.

Orthodontists vs. Dentists - a brief explanation

Q. What is the different between a dentist and an orthodontist?
A.  A Dentist takes care of all your regular dental needs. An Orthodontist straightens teeth using braces and other appliances.

Q.  How do you get to be an orthodontist?
A.  An orthodontist first becomes a dentist, then continues in dental school for another two or three years to become an orthodontist.

Q.  How long does it take to get to be an orthodontist?
A.  Most have four years of college, four years of dental school, then two years of orthodontic school.

Q.  Can my regular dentist do braces?
A.  Yes. In California, all dentists are licensed to do all aspects of dentistry, but most do not.

Q.  Can an orthodontist do fillings or extractions?
A.  Yes, but most do not.

Common Questions - things many people want to know

Q.  Does it hurt to get braces?
A.  Putting braces on doesn't hurt, or hurts so little that it's more of an annoyance. Once they are on, most people do not complain of pain, but there is an amount of discomfort and inconvenience. After any change, like putting braces on, making an adjustment, new wires, etc., the teeth may be sensitive to pressure for a day or two. This usually starts 12 to 24 hours after an adjustment and lasts about as long. Softer foods help during this time, as will routine over-the-counter pain relievers such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Motrin), and acetaminophen (Tylenol). It is entirely an individual thing. More people ask us why doesn't it hurt, than tell us it hurts. When asked if they have had any pain, most patients say "Oh, I guess, for a day or two I couldn't bite down hard."

Q.  How long will treatment take?
A.  This is different for each individual, but most 12-year-olds take a little over two years in braces before going to retainers. Most adults, three to four. Limited treatment takes less time. More comprehensive or complicated treatment takes more time.

Q.  How often will I come in?
A.  Once per month, on average. The actual interval between visits varies from one to three weeks for a short interval, to four to twelve weeks for a longer interval, depending on what is going on with your teeth.

Q.  How long is each visit?
A.  Most visits are short (5 to 15 minutes). Some are long (30 to 60 minutes).

Q.  Are after school appointments available?
A.  Yes. Because most of our patients are school age, appointments outside school hours are booked well in advance.  If you miss one of these appointments, we may need to have you come in during school hours to make it up.

Q.  What's the best time for my child to start treatment?
A.  This depends on the nature of the problem. You or your dentist may not know what time Dr. Lang would like to start your child. Bring children in early, so Dr. Lang can decide. Being seen early doesn't necessarily mean early treatment.
                        - download more information on timing of treatment here .pdf reader required

Q.  My child has an underbite. I've been told he needs to be seen early by one dentist and that he needs to wait by another.
A.  It depends on the type of underbite. These are among the most difficult bites an orthodontist has to correct. Bring children in early, so Dr. Lang can decide.
                        - download more information on underbites here .pdf reader required
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Costs and Financing - a somewhat detailed section

Q.  How much does treatment cost?
A.  From a few hundred to a few thousand, depending on what's involved.

Q.  Can I make monthly payments?
A.  Several payment options are available, including "no down" and "interest free" payment schedules. Most people chose the interest free option with a down payment and monthly payments spread over the length of treatment.
                        - download more information about our bookkeeping system here .pdf reader required

Q.  What if I'm late with a payment?
A.  Unless you are on a monthly payment plan, charges are due and payable thirty days from the date of service.  Late fees apply to overdue amounts.

Q.  What about financing?
A.  We have in-house no-interest payment plans which require a down payment and spread the monthly payments over the length of treatment. Other options may be available. Please ask.

Q.  Will you bill my insurance?
A.  Yes. Please keep us up to date on any changes in your insurance.
                        - download more information on orthodontic insurance here .pdf reader required

Q.  Is Dr. Lang on any HMO or other low cost insurance plan like Healthy Families or Denti-Cal?
A.  No. Those types of plans limit what we can do.

Q.  Do you give discounts?
A.  Yes. For some special circumstances, but not often.

Q.  Will I be charged if I miss an appointment?
A.  No, as long as you call before your appointment time to say you will not be in. That way we can give the time to someone else.

Q.  Is financial aid available?
A.  Yes, but it is very limited. Ask for our office fact sheet on financial aid when you come in.
                        - download more information on financial aid here .pdf reader required
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Q.  I have heard that in some offices, there is no charge for the first visit or the x-rays.  Why do you charge for these?
A.  We charge only for the first exam visit and the first full set of orthodontic records. Since nothing is really "free," our treatment fees would be higher than they are now if we did not charge separately for these services. This also offers you freedom of choice, in that you can stop at that point or go elsewhere without feeling pressured to protect your investment. Offices that offer free exams and x-rays usually charge you for them if you decide to go elsewhere for treatment.

Q.  How come in some offices, they can give you what treatment will cost on the first visit, but you take longer?
A.  We can usually give a ballpark figure on the first visit.  An accurate quotation is made after a thorough analysis of the diagnostic records survey.  It's really the most accurate way.

Q.  Why do braces cost so much?  I've heard they cost only a few dollars each.
A.  The fee for braces treatment reflects the labor as well as the parts.  Also, it costs money to run an office of any kind. Our typical "overhead" is in the 60-70% range.

Q.  I can get braces cheaper elsewhere.  Why should I go to Dr. Lang?
A.  Our fees reflect the quality of our service.

Q.  Is there a charge to repair breakage?
A.  Usually not the first time for broken braces (brackets, bands) or wires.  After that, it's usually a smaller charge like $33 for the repair.  Retainers, removable appliances, and space maintainers are another story.  Replacement charges apply, unless they can be repaired on the spot.  In that case, a repair costs you less than a replacement. A replacement is typically $169.

Q.  I just want to know what braces cost.  Do I have to come in to find that out?
A.  Sometimes people call the office with this question.  Since we can't do an exam without seeing the patient, what we say may be way off, but here are some figures:  First, there is the exam, $37. If it seems like treatment is going to start soon, or if we need what we call a "baseline" to start following the patient, the next step is diagnostic records, $367.  What follows some time after that visit, is an explanation of why we need to wait to start treatment, or a detailed letter explaining treatment that's about to start, the length, cost, and other things, including the payment plan.  If the patient is typical, and needs about 24 to 30 months in braces followed by two years of retainer supervision, a typical fee would be $5577.  Some limited cases are a little over $3000.  Some complicated cases are nearly $7000.  That's quite a range.  You can see why the best way to find out what braces cost is to make an appointment for a $37 exam.  We take as much time at the exam as is needed for you to have a good understanding of what's likely to be involved before you commit to the $367 records visit.  In addition to explaining the orthodontic problem and its solution, the letter following the records visit anticipates many questions you may have.  Very few people have questions or doubts after that, so the letter usually includes a treatment starting date if treatment is to start soon.  If you just don't know, and just want to talk, call the office. Dr. Lang can call you back and spend whatever time you need to answer any questions you have on the phone before you commit to a first visit.  You can also send an email using our contact page. Dr. Lang will usually answer this personally. Please include your telephone number in case your questions can best be answered by phone.  Our goal is to meet your needs. In these difficult financial times, the last thing we want is to have you feel that you have been talked into something, or that you are not financially prepared.

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About Treatment - a very long section with much detail

Q.  Do you do Damon Appliances?
A.  No, we do not.

Q.  What about colored braces?
A.  Colored braces don't work very well. They are made of plastic which is less durable and discolors. What we do is put colored rings over the metal braces so you can decorate your mouth. Clear, white, and "tooth" colored rings are also available.

Q.  What about colored retainers?
A.  Yes, we have them! Retainers are available in a variety of colors.

Q.  What about those jewelry-colored wires?
A.  We don't use them.  We use only wires approved by the ADA Council on Dental Materials.

Q.  Do you use recycled brackets?
A.  No. We use new brackets.

Q.  Is the water safe in your office?
A.  Yes.  We use distilled water.

Q.  Do you sterilize your instruments?
A.  Yes.  Everything which goes in your mouth and which is not disposable has been sterilized since the last time it was used.  We use the "universal precautions" outlined by the CDC.

Q.  Does Dr. Lang do the work or does he have assistants do it?
A.  California law is very specific about what may and may not be done by assistants.  Dr. Lang will do things the law requires only be done by the orthodontist.  He will also do many of the things which could also be done by an assistant.  He will have assistants do some of the things they are licensed to do.

Q.  Do I have to have teeth taken out?
A.  This depends entirely on your orthodontic problem.  Non-extraction is more likely if treatment is started early enough.  Starting treatment early favors non-extraction.  It also takes longer and costs more.  Bring children in early, so Dr. Lang can decide.
                        - download more information on serial extraction here .pdf reader required

Q.  What about wisdom teeth?
A.  This is a decision made on an individual basis.
                        - download more information on wisdom teeth here .pdf reader required
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Q.  Why do some people need a headgear or neckgear?
A.  This is complicated.  It has to do with the position of your teeth relative to your jaw bones.  If we need to move upper teeth back and we don't want to move lower teeth forward, we need to use something like a headgear.  To determine what direction we need to move the teeth, Dr. Lang uses a "cephalometric analysis."  Bring children in early, so Dr. Lang can decide.  Patients usually only wear the appliance at home and while sleeping, so nobody knows they are wearing one.  Shhh... it's our secret!

Q.  Do you use a Herbst, Bionator, or any other Functional Appliance?
A.  Yes.  We use functional appliances but only where they are appropriate.

Q.  What is a biteplate and why do I have to wear one?
A.  A biteplate is like a removable retainer without the front wire. It has several purposes, but the most common one is to make a vertical separation between your upper and lower teeth so we can get braces on the lower. There are other ways to do this, but a biteplate is more efficient, more hygienic, and more safe to use.
                        - download more information on biteplates here .pdf reader required

Q.  What are elastics and why do I have to wear them?
A.  Elastics are rubber bands that run from one tooth to another, usually from upper teeth to lower teeth. They are a good way to make group movements or whole arch movements. They are usually worn on both sides, but sometimes not. They are made of natural latex, but we have synthetic ones for those with latex allergies. Natural latex works better. Elastics need to be changed at least once or twice a day to be fresh and have the pull they need for tooth movement. We will give you a small bag of elastics when you start yours. Ask for another bag any time you run out. If you don't wear your elastics as directed, your treatment progress will stop.
                        - download more information on elastics here .pdf reader required

Q.  Do you ever give tours of your office?
A.  Yes.  Ask your teacher to arrange a classroom tour with our office.

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Q.  How are emergencies handled?
A.  True emergencies (threat to life or health) are rare in Orthodontics.  Inconveniences such as broken braces and loose bands do happen.  If you can't wait until our next regular business day for a repair, Dr. Lang is on call for you.  There will be a charge for visits outside office hours.  When Dr. Lang is out of town, there will be another local orthodontist on call.  Dr. Lang will be on call for other orthodontists from time to time.

Q.  My friend is wearing a 'some-kind-of-appliance'.  Why don't you use that on me instead of what I have?
A.  Each patient's treatment plan is individual.  Different appliances work well for different problems.  Each orthodontist uses what works best in their own hands.

Q.  What about invisible braces (Invisalign™)?
A.  Invisible alignment has been around for many years.  What is new is the manufacturing technique and the marketing technique.  See our page on invisible appliances.

Q.  What about braces hidden on the back of the teeth?
A.  Lingual orthodontic braces do not work the same as those on the front of the teeth. We do not use them.

Q.  What if I am pregnant, can I still get braces?
A.  We usually wait until after the baby is born.

Q.  I want to get done fast.  (I know I have gotten behind because of breakage, etc., but it's "not my fault.") Why can't you just tighten the braces really a lot and get me done sooner?
A.  There is a correct amount of force for maximum tooth movement.  Exceeding this amount may cause problems or actually slow treatment.

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Q.  Why does breakage set me back in treatment?
A.  When we repair broken bands, wires, and brackets, we usually need to go back a step or two, because the tooth with the broken brace is not "with the program."  Repeated breakage can make you get farther behind with the passage of time. A way to put it is, each item of breakage adds a month to your treatment time. Sometimes more, sometimes less, but it's a good rule of thumb.

Q.  My uncle is a building contractor.  He can set an exact date for completion of a project.  Why can't you?
A.  Your uncle does not have a teenager for a business partner. Seriously, a better comparison might be asking a teacher when a child will have an assignment finished. The teacher can say when it is due, but cannot guarantee the student will have it done by then.

Q.  If I move, will I be able to continue my treatment?
A.  Usually.  Patients sometimes move away in mid-treatment.  It's like changing schools in mid-semester.  At the new school, they may be on a different page in the textbook, or they may use a different textbook altogether, so various tests may be necessary to see where you are in the subject. Orthodontists use diagnostic records to see where you are in treatment.
                        - download more information on outgoing transfers here .pdf reader required

Q.  If I transfer, will my treatment take longer or cost more?
A.  Yes, usually.  Like changing drivers in a car, you need to stop for a while.  Also, the cost of completion will be based on the fees of the orthodontist you transfer to.  Most larger areas have higher fees for the same services.  We will try our best to adjust your account to reflect only how much work was done here.

Q.  One company I found on the Internet says their braces are better than others and I should ask my orthodontist why they are not using them.  Should I?
A.  Most orthodontic manufacturers think their products are best, but leave it up to the orthodontist to decide which ones they want to buy.

Q.  You got my friend's braces done in only a year.  Why are mine going to take longer?
A.  People are different.

Q.  My braces are taking longer than my friend who goes to another orthodontist.  How come you are so slow?
A.  Some things take longer than others.  Maybe your problem is more difficult to solve.

Q.  My braces got done in less time than my friend who goes to another orthodontist.  Did you leave something out?
A.  Some things take longer than others.  Maybe your problem is less difficult to solve.

Q.  How come you don't do things the same way as the orthodontist my friend goes to?
A.  Different orthodontists use different techniques.

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Q.  All I want to know is when I will get my braces off.  Why can't you just tell me?
A.  Some questions are difficult to answer accurately, and we don't want to disappoint you one way or the other.  We really don't know the exact moment when the teeth will be straight enough to take the braces off.  We make an estimate at the beginning of treatment, but your teeth are not on a timer. 

Q.  My teeth look good enough to me.  Why do you say there is more work to do?
A.  It is usually because there are things that need to be done with the back teeth which don't show, but which will enhance the quality or stability of the result.

Q.  Will I have to wear retainers after my braces are off?
A.  Most likely, yes. This is the way we hold the teeth in their new positions. Retainer wear starts at 24 hours per day and is reduced over a period of time.
                        - download more information on retainers here .pdf reader required

Q.  If I don't wear my retainers, what will happen?
A.  Your teeth will try to move back to where they were before treatment.  It's always best to wear your retainers as directed.  The old saying goes: "The quickest way to get back into braces is to not wear your retainers."
                        - download more information on relapse here .pdf reader required

Q.  My friends who've had braces elsewhere don't have to wear retainers. Why do you make me wear them?
A.  Your friends either are not wearing their retainers when you see them (because they no longer need to wear them 24 hours per day or they should be wearing them 24 hours per day but they are not) or they are wearing permanent retainers on the tongue side of their teeth. Dr. Lang believes that removable retainers are best for his patients. There are several reasons for this: hygiene, safety, adjustment, gradual reduction of wearing time, quicker discovery of unstable results.

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New To Area - what to expect

Q.  I am a new patient to your area.  I am in braces and am checking out orthodontists to transfer to.  What do I do next?
A.  Call the office and tell us.  We will send you information so you can decide if you want to chose our office.
                        - download more information on incoming transfers here .pdf reader required

Q.  What if I am new to your area, I am in braces and I just want to get them off.  Is that possible?
A.  Yes, usually, but that will not happen on the first visit. Call the office and say so. We will send you some information. Refer to the informaiton we send you for details.

Q.  I am new in your area, I am in braces, but I don't want to transfer.  Can Dr. Lang just tighten my braces?
A.  Unfortunately, no.  Orthodontic treatment may be compared with cooking.  If a different cook steps in during the process, they can't always tell what's been done and what comes next, even by looking at the recipe.

Q.  What if my orthodontist sends Dr. Lang my treatment plan and tells him what's next?
A.  Each orthodontist must make his or her own decisions.  Orthodontic treatment plans are general in nature.  Much is carried in the head of the orthodontist who has a feel for how things are going.  What's next on a given visit may change according to the judgment of the orthodontist who has been treating the case.

Q.  What if I want my old orthodontist to be the one to finish the treatment but need an emergency visit?
A.  Please call our office.  We may be able to help you.

Q.  I have moved here and think I want to transfer to your office. Is it complicated?
A.  Transferring from one orthodontist to another is like changing schools in mid-semester; there may be some catching up to do. Or it may be compared with changing drivers on a car trip; you need to stop for a while. Although we may have the recipe and the ingredients, we will need to do an analysis (using x-rays, models of the teeth and such) to figure out where exactly you are in the current treatment plan. Sometimes it's necessary to change the plan or change the appliances. Although all braces work in about the same way, there are over a dozen manufacturers, each with a half-dozen or so styles of braces. The automotive analogy fits here: Chevys and Fords are much alike, but Ford parts don't fit Chevys.

Q.  I am in braces with another orthodontist here in Humboldt County but I am unhappy.  Can I transfer to your office?
A.  We usually do not encourage this.  In the unusual cases when a cross-town transfer does take place, they have needed to have their braces taken off by their existing orthodontist before re-starting treatment in our office.
                        - download more information on local transfers here .pdf reader required

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On the Internet - short section

Q.  I have found you on the internet.  I don't live in your area.  How can I find an orthodontist close to me?
A.  Go to our 'links' page.  The American Association of Orthodontists maintains a  list of member orthodontists all over the country.

Q.  What if these FAQ's don't answer all my questions?
A.  Look elsewhere on our site for more information.  There are also links to some dental and orthodontic resources on our links page.  If you still have questions, we invite you to call the office.  If we can't answer your questions over the phone, we will be happy to make an appointment for you, or Dr. Lang can call you back. you can also use our contact page to ask a question.

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Member, American Association of Orthodontists

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