21st Century Lie #2 – Your Kid Needs to See an Orthodontist
About twelve years ago, it appears that it became standard procedure for dentists to tell children and parents that an orthodontia consult was necessary. They are happy to recommend an orthodontist they prefer to work with if you do not know any. Call me a conspiracy theorist, but are dentists and orthodontists in cahoots? It would seem they would be lucrative bed fellows!
Now, to my best recollection, this started about twelve years ago with my oldest boy. It was not as forceful a statement as it is nowadays but it was still there. Then as now, when I asked, "is there something wrong with his teeth?" the answers each and every time was, "no, it's just that his/her bite, or smile, is not perfect." And when I followed up with, "is there anything functionally wrong with their bite that would cause problems, that they would NEED braces?" Each and every time I was told, "no, it's just that their teeth will not be perfect."
Perfect? When did we cross over from a nice smile that looks pretty (no misplaced teeth), to actually perfect on x-ray? Is it just because I live in Scottsdale, Arizona, and this is trendy for this part of town? Or is it an under-the-cuff remark that insinuates to parents that their kids are less than perfect and they have a problem that needs correction? Is it a guilt statement that parents are buying into? I think so!
So, let us take our oldest boy for example. At the time he was told that he needed to consult with an orthodontist, not all of his baby teeth were in and out yet. Not to mention molars and wisdom teeth. He had one tooth that was high in the gum and the baby tooth under it had not fallen out yet. Heck it was not even loose. So we visited orthodontist number one. As suspected, this orthodontist said he needed braces. So, I decided to visit the orthodontist who put braces on me when I messed up my teeth and jaw in a car wreck when I was 20 something. Having known her for over 20 years now, I can honestly say I trust her opinion. Without hesitation, she said she would actually wait a few years until all his secondary teeth were in. She said you might want to wait until you can see secondary molars and probably wisdom teeth in the x-rays, with the caveat that the last part would be up to us. She suggested that he start wiggling and get the baby tooth out to see if the permanent tooth might drop down into the empty space where it belonged.
So we did just that, and low and behold, his tooth (and another like that) fell into place. His smile is absolutely beautiful. Maybe not perfect on x-ray, but to the naked eye, it's a damned nice smile. Last summer, at the age of 18 he had all four molars removed and guess what? His smile is still beautiful!
As for our third child, his dental scenario is pretty much a repeat of our older boy. Therefore, we have decided to wait it out with him as well. My gut tells me he too will have a gorgeous mouthful of teeth. My gut is not usually wrong.
As of late, we have custody of a 12-year old girl, and her visit to the dentist yielded similar results. While she does have a couple teeth slightly misaligned (and I mean slightly) she still has a beautiful smile. There is nothing structurally wrong. At 12, she still has teeth coming in which may require removal and/or braces. Again, a little waiting time does seem prudent to us. But because they said all of this stuff in front of her, she now thinks her teeth are terrible, and is insisting on braces. That is all we hear about!
The biggest question I have is, "if their teeth are not messed up and/or they are not having structural issues that are causing jaw and bite issues, why can't we leave well enough alone? What are we doing when we tell our children their smiles have to be perfect?" Why are dentists pushing braces? I understand that now they are a badge of honor among kids (regardless of the family's finances) but I have had them. And I am here to tell you they hurt and they are a major pain the butt!
Just once, I would like to take my kids to the dentist and just once have their teeth cleaned without the pressure of creating a perfect smile.