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Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Braces or not braces?

Okay, here's a little rant, if you will.

Does it seem to anyone else out there that there is an overabundance of braces on kids' teeth these days? Not only does every kid have braces, but they are getting younger and younger!

Our oldest daughter had braces, not because she had severely crooked teeth, not to fix any missing teeth or teeth that were too crowded, not for any serious jaw issues. She had braces (only for 1 year, mind you) to fix the fact that when she smiled, the line between her front and bottom teeth didn't match up perfectly.

Okay, I hear you - I know what you are thinking, "why did you let them put them on her if she didn't need them?" Believe me, we had many discussion about that - but it is the way it is presented to you in the orthodontists office. They take all the xrays, do all the measurements, blah, blah, blah. Then they take you into this room and lay it all out for you and explain that what we are seeing may not necessarily be critical now, but someday, this could become a serious issue. She could end up with TMJ (WTF?) and suffer headaches, jaw pain, etc., etc. She could suffer from misaligned jaw that would require changing later to avoid more of the above-mentioned problems.

Truly, you feel (or at least I did) that you are not being a responsible parent if you don't fix these potential problems. Okay, say we don't do the braces, what's the worst that can happen? Then they proceed to tell you how it may require surgery and long recoveries, blah, blah. The key word in all of this is 'COULD', 'MIGHT', 'POSSIBLY'. None of us really know do we? Are we going to take the chance of being negligent? Are we going to risk our kids resenting us and blaming us for their migranes because we were too cheap to put braces on their teeth? So, for our oldest daughter, we fell for it and we put them on and yes, her teeth are pretty, not much prettier than they were before, even she says "that was a waste of money".

Well, of course as we are taking my oldest to the ortho, they spy my younger daughters. "You should really have them checked out". Of course we should - how could we not and still be good parents?

Guess what they found? Not only does my middle daughter need braces but it is "obvious" my youngest will too. She is 8. Do 8 year olds even have all their teeth for God's sake? How can you tell that young what the problem is?

We have insurance that covers 50% of orthodontics - take a stab at what our 50% would cost us for middle daughter? Go ahead - guess. Too low...........$2800!!!!!! That's our half!!

After they wear the braces for a year or two - then they go to retainers (oldest is in those now) and I say, "how long do they wear the retainers"? The ortho says, "well, all the time for the next 2 years and then pretty much for the rest of their lives at night". ????? So, what was the purpose of the braces - couldn't we have just had retainers instead since they are going to be holding everything in place for the rest of their lives anyway?? Do people our there really wear these retainers for the rest of their lives? If you don't wear the retainers do your teeth go back where they were and then you put braces back on???

I'm not a total idiot, obviously if your child has serious orthodontic issues, you are going to take care of that - but how much of this is just cosmetic and how much is necessary? This is where the line blurs for me.

I'm sorry to all you orthodontists out there - Lord knows I am not educated in this field - but, it all seems like one big racket to me. They play on the parents guilt and fear of being a bad parent if we don't do it and the risk of going broke if we do! We decided to hold off for awhile for our middle daughter, after our experience with our oldest, we will continue to let her teeth come in and see what we think. I'm sure if she is wearing braces at 13 instead of 8, it's not going to be that tragic.

I would love to hear of some other parents' experience with this - what do you think?


Deb said...

Yeah, I remember going thru this ordeal. Bottom line...we just didn't have the $$. And I mean, we REALLY didn't. I was baking bread at the time to save a few pennies.

Anyway, I asked what possible alternative action we could take to prevent some horrible mis-shapen mouth in later years. Doc said for child to clench his teeth "just so" (demonstrated) and maybe, just maybe, he would be OK.

Child was told to do that. I doubt he did for long. He's fine....age 22 now; beautiful smile.

Marie said...

I am with you on this one.

I took my oldest son in because of a "too small upper jaw." The ortho prescribed several years' treatment, including headgear, to the tune of several thousand dollars. We had no insurance.

I had to pull over to the side of the road and cry on my way home. Not a common habit for me.

After a couple of months I took him to another ortho to see if they might happen to be any cheaper. He said it wasn't so bad, nothing needed to be done right now, he'll check him in a year.

My son is now 18, never had braces of any kind, and has no dental problems of any kind.

Get a second and a third opinion.

Deb said...

P.S. My son is the one on the left: