Is extracting children’s teeth for orthodontic purposes the best we can do?

Every time I visit the dentist I find something else out that horrifies me about our current system.

Around the age of twelve it became apparent that our eldest daughter had over-crowding in her mouth. Her once gorgeous smile, around the age of eight, had gradually deteriorated, making her unwilling to give wide smiles. Having experienced two braces in my life I was determined our children wouldn’t go down the same path.

When I was around 12 I went to our local dentist who I’d been with all my life. He was a lovely, gentle man and going to the dentist never caused me any stress. Before he fitted my brace he removed two of my teeth using gas and air to take away pain which it did very effectively, leaving me with no trauma. At the time there was nothing wrong with my two front teeth – just a little over-crowding behind them. However, once the brace was fitted I experienced a great deal of pain on my two front teeth. This caused me a great deal of concern and despite telling him on numerous occasions he’d brush my worries aside telling me it was all ‘perfectly normal’.

‘We love your gappy teeth!’

By the time my brace came off I was left with gaps where the two teeth had been taken out and my two front teeth pointed inwards. At the time it hadn’t crossed my mind the braces were used for cosmetic reasons so it didn’t concern me my teeth weren’t perfect. I trusted that he’d done the job he needed to do to keep my teeth in the best health possible. I didn’t think anything more until my 30s when my sister-in-law had four teeth taken out and a brace fitted. At first I thought her vain but the more I looked at my teeth the more self-conscious I became. More and more people my age seemed to be considering them or taking the plunge and going for it themselves. In my early 40s I decided I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life with inward pointing front teeth and gaps in my teeth. When I began wearing the brace a friend said, ‘Aah, we loved you with your gappy teeth.’ It made me so thankful I’d taken the plunge.

Two years later the brace came off and a metal retainer was put at the back of my bottom row of teeth. This gave me a lot of security, knowing those teeth would never move. Or so I thought. I wore the retainer every night for the first year, as instructed, then gradually reduced wearing it until eventually I stopped altogether. The practice hadn’t told me I should wear it for the rest of my life.

The root is exposed.

Last year, whilst brushing my teeth one night, I noticed a bit of white where there hadn’t been white before. On closer inspection the root of one of my bottom teeth was pretty much fully exposed. I saw various dentists who said I needed to go back to the orthodontist who treated me to see what he thought. He recommended gum surgery. I did stage one of what he suggested, costing £650, but decided against a gum graft. This involved taking skin from the roof of my mouth and stitching it over the root of my tooth.

When it came time for my daughter to find someone to fit her brace our gut instinct veered us away from the practise who’d treated me (this was before my root was exposed). He’d told her she’d need four teeth removed but the reasons he gave for their removal didn’t quite add up. Then lockdown occurred and no dentists were allowed to see patients leading to a huge backlog. During that time Joinavision was born and someone happened to do a post on a dental practise that didn’t believe in extracting teeth for orthodontic reasons. This shocked me but also gave me hope. Finally, a dentist who thought outside of the box.

We’ve been going there ever since and he’s helped me look even deeper into what’s wrong with our current system.

It’s all in the bite.

Today my dentist asked me if I knew why my root was exposed. Because of what I’ve learnt since having my second brace I said it was because my bite isn’t right. He nodded his head and showed me how I should be biting. My current bite means two of my bottom teeth have nothing above them which means one was starting to move upwards out of its socket. Because I’d had the wire retainer put on this was also causing the tooth to essentially use it as a swing. The root was starting to swing forwards as the top tilted backwards. We agreed that the bad dentistry I’d had as a child followed by my later dental work was costing me a lot of extra dental treatments. He told me how frustrated he gets when he sees these metal retainers and the damage they can cause further down the line.

This man was born and trained to be a dentist in South Africa before moving to the UK. The dentistry he practises expands the roof of the mouth to make way for the teeth meaning no teeth are extracted. Extracting teeth changes our faces – even more so when our teeth are then pushed back to fill the gaps. He brings the back teeth forwards so our front teeth remain where they should be – meaning our lips retain their fullness. He told me at our first appointment he spends his life examining people’s faces. I’d never met a dentist that looked at people’s faces – not just their mouths.

He said he’d try his best to retain the tooth that is gradually extricating itself from its socket. We’ve no idea how long I’ll have it for but he’s shown me a way we can avoid a bridge or an implant too as he knows my concerns re products used in dentistry.

Why does the NHS continue to extract healthy teeth?

Is extracting children’s teeth for orthodontic purposes the best we can do despite mounting evidence this is not the only route to take. There’s no longterm care or thought given to the trauma and expensive dentistry this could cause patients in the future. Extracting healthy teeth seems crazy when there are other dentists out there who will do anything to save them. Why aren’t we learning from these dentists?

Seeing our dentist is expensive – like any private dentist. It’s not right that I’m clearing up the mess an NHS dentist made when I was twelve but I’m lucky in that I can afford it. Not many people can which is why our dentistry needs a complete re-haul.

Why are our mouths so over-crowded? Could it be related to an increase in mouth breathing instead of nose breathing? Is it our diet, our lack of chewing hard food? Why is extraction the only way forwards? What are the long term effects of extracting teeth? The NHS dentist who took my teeth out when I was twelve died years ago. I’m not being treated by the NHS so there’s no follow-up, no paper trail to show people the errors that have been made.

I’m so thankful I found this dentist and there are others out there too. If I had to use an NHS dentist I’d explain very firmly that they aren’t to remove any healthy teeth and that there is another way. I don’t know if it would do any good but it has to be worth a try to stop orthodontists continuing to extract children’s teeth.

Please check out our dentistry page for more information on our teeth or watch this video for another opinion from a qualified dentist.

A quick explanation as to why you shouldn’t jump straight into extracting teeth. One twin had teeth extracted, the other didn’t.
Fast forward his advert but then you get a more in-depth look at how are faces change with teeth extraction.
Dr Seb Lomas talks about dental protocol.

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