I’m fuming after a visit to the orthodontist. I took my 12-year-old son in to get started with orthodontic treatment. The doctor said it would be a longer visit because they were getting everything set up, but didn’t really elaborate on everything they’d be doing. It may be on me, but I didn’t clarify. I just thought he was getting braces put on. Come to find out, AFTER the appointment no less, that the dentist shaved his teeth. I had to hear about the procedure from my son. I thought he was mistaken when he came out and told me what they’d done, so I corrected him, and the assistant then told me what my son was saying was accurate. She said it was normal for treatment and that they do it with all their patients. Now, on top of everything else, I’m worried about the long-term damage the orthodontist may have caused. Why did he do this and can it be fixed?
Not Ok in OK
Dear Not Ok,
Why Did the Orthodontist “Shave Teeth?”
This is done to make space. Once the dentist measures out how much space is there and how much space is necessary for all the teeth once they’re in alignment, it becomes apparent if more space needs to be made. There are several ways to make space, such as palatal expanders and tooth extractions, but reducing the width of teeth is common as well. In short, if the dentist removes just the tiniest amount of structure on the sides of each tooth, it adds up to a fair amount of space overall. This may have been the easiest and least invasive method for your son. It’s referred to as “interproximal reduction.”
Interproximal Reduction is Safe
Although each dentist has his own toolkit he draws upon for various cases, interproximal reduction often earns a place in the toolkit because it is a safe and fast choice. True, some of your son’s enamel is gone now. Nothing will bring it back. However, if the reduction was such that your son would be at an increased risk for decay now, the dentist would have protected the surface with dental bonding. You can confirm if this was necessary with the dentist.
The Dentist Should Have Spoken with You
Despite the fact that this is a safe and trusted procedure, the dentist should have explained it to you in advance. He’s required to get “informed consent” before procedures are carried out, and if he didn’t fully inform you, then you didn’t give consent. That’s not ok. It’s possible he glossed over it or the detail was lost amid all the new information you were being given at the time, but if you’re 100% certain he didn’t discuss it, or even think he should have been more direct about it, then you should mention it to him. Again, it doesn’t sound like his practice was off, but if he’s missing the mark in communication, he needs to address that.
This post was sponsored by Dr. Ryan Noah, a Tulsa orthodontic treatment provider.