Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Selecting an Orthodontist or Dentist, and Our Rapid Results

This post is fourth in a series about alternatives to conventional orthodontics. 

In the other posts of this series, I talked about why my 7-year-old daughter needs orthodontics, why we're not using conventional braces, and some alternatives to conventional braces. Now I'll share our experiences thus far.


Finding the Right Dentist

We do not have any dentists or orthodontists locally that use either lightwire or plastic myofunctional appliances to encourage growth of the dental arches. Using the American Academy of Gnathologic Orthopedics website, I was able to find a few prospective dentists about 220 miles away from our home, in Albuquerque NM.

One thing that was important to me was finding a practitioner who would be okay with our decision to not expose our daughter to X-rays. We also wanted to find a dentist/orthodontist who made our daughter feel at ease so that she would not dread going to the dentist.We learned just how important it was to interview different care providers, as the two practitioners we met with were completely different.

Two Completely Different Dentists

We met with an orthodontist who told us that he knew better than we did about the X-rays and that we would have to do them no matter what our reasons for not wanting them.  That same orthodontist also treated my daughter almost as a non-human entity. He ignored her completely at first, just talking to my husband and myself. He told us that he could accomplish the same thing with either a Crozat or braces, which shows that he really had no idea of the differences between the two methods.  And then he proceeded to start manipulating my daughter's head and mouth without talking to her or asking her permission. She was extremely uncomfortable with this dentist, as evidenced by her stiff-as-a-board posture and grabbing my hand in a death grip while the dentist inspected her mouth.

The other practitioner we met with was a pediatric dentist named Dr. Hess. Our experience with Dr. Hess was completely different than our awful experience with the orthodontist. First and foremost, Dr. Hess engaged our daughter in a conversation about unicorns (one of her favorite animals) and he had a very natural manner that set her at ease. Regarding X-rays, Dr. Hess said that although he would like to have them, he would also respect our decision to not have X-rays so long as we signed a waiver. Dr. Hess was very experienced with using appliances that encourage jaw growth, such as Crozats and plastic myofunctional appliances.  And then he started talking to me about the importance of breastfeeding in developing proper oral habits, and about the research of Weston A. Price.  You can imagine that at this point I knew we had found the right dentist!


My Daughter's Orthodontic Appliance

I was originally interested in getting a lightwire appliance for my daughter, but after discussing the options with Dr. Hess, we decided to use an OrthoTain plastic myofunctional appliance instead.  This option is terrific for us because it allows us to have several months between in-office appointments (since we live so far away), with just some short Skype appointments in between as needed. 


Results Already!

My daughter started using her OrthoTain appliance just 2&1/2 months ago. While we were still getting into the routine of using the appliance, and not yet being terribly consistent with it,we were pleasantly surprised to see that after one month we could already observe more space between our daughter's top teeth.
Before Treatment - There is no space at all between her upper teeth (the space on the bottom is where a baby tooth has been lost).
After 3.5 weeks of Treatment - There is a new space between two of her upper teeth.

After 5 weeks of treatment - There are spaces on both sides of her upper middle teeth (this was just prior to her losing her top two middle teeth, which is why one of them looks slightly pushed backwards).

After 11 weeks of treatment - Now my daughter has lost her two upper middle teeth, and an additional bottom tooth.  There is now plenty of space for her new top teeth that are growing in!

At my daughter's recent in-office follow-up appointment, we learned that her mild cross-bite has already been remedied through the use of her orthodontic appliance. We are looking forward to seeing even more space develop in her upper and lower dental jaws.


Liz said...

That is so exciting! My son has the same issue. I looked at the website you mentioned and the closest person is an eight hour drive from us which is just not doable. Do you know of any other associations with similar practitioners?

Wendy W. said...

Oh, my, I have been reading this with great interest. We have a 13 year old and a 7 year old with too small jaws. I feel like I don't know where to start to find the dentist we need in NE Ohio. I do have a wonderful WAFP type dentist 3 hrs away in Columbus, but I feel like that is too far to go to an orthodontist that he knows... It looks huge to me to figure all this out. I'm so glad for you with your daughter's progress!

Sarah Smith said...

Hi Liz,
You might try this site to see if you can find anyone:
This is another type of orthodontic that I am still learning about, after having a dentist contact me to tell me about it (since I used some of his photos in one of my previous posts).

Tara said...

Sarah, is this the type of thing that a biological dentist can help with, or does it have to be another type of orthodontist or gnathologic specialist? I'm wondering if those who aren't finding a practitioner close to them might be able to find someone by searching on the biological dentists website.

Sarah Smith said...

Hi Tara,
I am actually not familiar with what biological dentists do. I would think that, just as with any other health field, there are probably some who do things the proper way and others who just dabble in it. That is certainly what we found even when using people from the AAGO website. I have found the same to be true when it comes to doctors and homeopaths too.

Anonymous said...

Just wondering if you have any concerns about the plastic leaching chemicals into her body? This has been my concern with a retainer. said...


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Sarah Smith said...

That is something I have considered, and I have the same concern with metal appliances as well. I have decided that the benefits of using the appliance outweigh the potential risks of plastic leaching.

As a general rule, plastics can leach in the presence of acids (such as vinegar), heat, or large temperature changes (hot to cold or cold to hot). Temperature isn't an issue with an oral appliance, as it is never heated or cooled excessively. And as much as possible, I try to reduce the likelihood of any leaching by making sure my daughter's mouth is clean before she wears her appliance, so that there are no acids present in her mouth.

Anonymous said...

Hi Sarah! I would like to ask something about the appliance: Does it hurt? What is the feeling? I have heard that widening the palate hurts a lot and could cause joint problems. What is your experience? Best Regards!

Sarah Smith said...

No, it doesn't hurt so long as you slowly increase the usage of the appliance. My daughter started with an hour a day, moved on to 2 hours, then 3, then 4, before trying overnight. So long as she wears it consistently, there is no pain. If she forgets to use it for 2 nights in a row, then she notices a little bit of soreness if she wears it all night the following night.

Anonymous said...

So thankful for this information! I tried researching alternative orthodontics and couldn't find anything. Your links helped me find an amazing wholistic dentist!
Thank you!

Sarah Smith said...

Thanks for letting me know! I'm glad you found a good dentist!

Unknown said...

Thank you so much for sharing this information! I have always wondered if there was a better way than braces and a retainer. Is there any other website besides the one you mentioned for finding a dentist? There were no dentists in my state.

Also, I would love it if you kept us updated on your daughter!

Sarah Smith said...

Hi Kristie,
You might try this site to see if you can find anyone:
This is another type of orthodontic that I am still learning about, after having a dentist contact me to tell me about it (since I used some of his photos in one of my previous posts).

Anonymous said...

I wish my kids' teeth were are beautiful as ur daughter's before treatment! My older kids were all totally (extended) breastfed and 2 have fangs that needed alot of orthodontia work. They didnt get it as I couldn't afford it in the least. My 9yo was breastfed only till 8 mos and her father has horrific teeth. Hers are not quite as bad yet, but she has a crossbite that's preventing a tooth from moving into place among other unsightly things.
She definitely needs her jaw and arch expanded. She also was a baby in utero who got very little nutrition, long story but trust me on that. She was also exposed to constant very high-stress hormones from me the entire pregnancy. She has sensory issues and dyslexia--I can't get her reading yet despite using a system from a special ed reading teacher (my other 4 read & spell perfectly)
I'm happy none of my 5 got my familial space btwn the 2 front teeth but it's so sad how bad most of their teeth are.
Just wanted to give you a little perspective about your daughter's teeth. Even before any treatment, they are awesome to me :)

Sarah Smith said...

Yes, her teeth did look very pretty when she had all of her baby teeth since they are so straight. The problem is that since the baby teeth were all touching each other, there was not enough space for the larger adult teeth.

Anonymous said...

This is interesting. Can you tell me, what is the ideal age to start this? Did you have any issues with your daughter not wanting to wear this? What is the typical cost of ALF and other treatments you mention? I assume the conventional insurance won't pay for it? Thanks!

Sarah Smith said...

The age for starting depends on which treatment method you use. With the Ortho-Tain we are using, kids can start as early as 5 years old. I think that, for Crozat, they start a bit later, maybe more around 8 or so.

Our insurance did not cover it. The total cost from start to finish for our daughter's treatment is ~$3000.

Unknown said...

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Lanae said...

Do you go to a dentist at all in Las Cruces for you or your kids?

Sarah Smith said...

Hi Lanae,
No, we don't. Actually, besides my daughter's orthodontist appointments, none of us has been to a dentist at all in over 7 years.

I can't decide if I am embarrassed to say that or not. I think it just fell off the radar after our first child was born and we have not needed to go since we haven't had any tooth problems in the intervening years. Considering that my husband and I both had cavities regularly previously to the WAPF-inspired diet, I think this is a pretty strong testament to the power of a good diet.

Unknown said...

I have a son with a similar problem to your daughter. My wife brought up the fact that we should probably start looking into getting him some orthodontic treatment, so I've been doing some research. Thanks for sharing your experience, and congrats on a successful treatment!

Anonymous said...

Now that some years have passed, how is the Ortho-tain journey going? We are looking into the product for our children, and it's $3500 per kid. The regular (recommended by friends and dentist) orthodontist quoted us under $2000 for braces. I prefer the ortho-tain philosophy, but only if it actually works in the long term. It's an expensive gamble with 2 kids who need it now and 3 to come!

Sarah Smith said...

How old are your kids? I think the Ortho-Tain works the easiest if they are fairly young, since they can just wear the appliance while they are asleep. If they are older (and have therefore not as much growth left), they would probably have to wear the appliance for some hours each day as well.

Things are still going well with my daughter's Ortho-Tain appliance. If you want to see pictures from one-year after we started treatment, they are here:
My daughter went up two sizes with her appliance this year, and I would anticipate she will likely go up one more during our on-office visit in January. That might be the last size increase.

Wearing the appliance at night is just a normal part of her life, by now, so it is no big deal at all. Currently she has lost 8 baby teeth. She has a small space between her upper middle teeth, which is great since it means there will be more space for her larger molars when she loses more baby teeth. Her bottom teeth are all lined up beautifully straight. Her smile looks great and her face looks more in-proportion than it would have without widening her jaw/palate.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for replying! My big kids are 5, 8, and 10. All crowded teeth, but the 5-year-old also has a significant speech impediment, snores, and continues to have toileting problems (my 2-year-old and other kids have perfect speech and none of the other issues.). He is cognitively far advanced and tall/sturdy in stature, so I really think it is a structural problem and wonder if orthotain could correct it? I was on GAPS while pregnant with him, and he ate that way (and nursed) until almost 3 years, so He has a good nutritional foundation. Conventional doctors (pediatricians, ENT) and speech therapists say not to worry about any of it ("he'll outgrow it") and chiropractors and other natural therapists haven't had any success. It's the toileting that keeps my attention, and snoring just seems like an obvious sign something is wrong. The speech issue is disconcerting to me - I can see that his mouth works entirely differently than my other kids'. Anyway, my husband is suspicious of orthotain (high profit to dentist and all studies are by related companies), but I don't even know where to start in looking for a practitioner who understands how a child's mouth SHOULD work in a WAP kind of way. (I also wonder if we have structural issues beyond the scope of orthotain). Any advice? (We live 5 hours from the nearest kind-of-big city so there's that limitation)

Sarah Smith said...

Have you seen my post about different alternatives besides Ortho-Tain? You can see that here, in case it is helpful in seeing that there are more options:
And perhaps this post about the disadvantages of braces would also be informative:

Regarding the speech impediment and toileting issues: have you considered chronic homeopathic treatment? It can really improve those types of issues. For instance, my daughter used to have issues with stuttering which were cured through homeopathy, I've seen it heal stuttering in other kids, too, and I have seen homeopathy work to heal toileting issues as well. Chronic homeopathic treatment does require a very knowledgeable practitioner, but the results can be truly amazing. I don't take very many new patients in my own homeopathic practice, so I don't have any openings for a couple months, but I could recommend some other homeopaths if you are interested in trying that approach.

In my daughter's case, homeopathy and nutrition did not help with the narrow palate/jaw, which is why we decided to use the orthodontic appliance. I hope this helps, and let me know if you have any other questions!

Mrs.W said...

HI! I am thrilled with your daughters results. I would like to caution - as with all things - to make sure your provider is thoroughly knowledgeable about the product and the process, is fully informing you and considering your lifestyle. I had this done when I was an adolescent and didn't know anything, was painfully shy and didn't have the backbone to stand up to the dentist. I knew he wasn't listening to me. Every time I went I said I didn't think the appliances were working for me. I couldn't wear it constantly as it affected my ability to earn an income. He told me to wear it 24/7 but to remove it every time I ate and brushed my teeth. I told him that I thought it was scratching and cracking my teeth and only moving my back teeth. He assured me that was silly. I drove an hour across town at predawn hours every 2 weeks for 2+ years. Each time for him to take a quick look at my teeth, tell me my fears were unfounded, and say come back in 2 weeks. When I got married I had my braces removed and stopped using the appliance. I was supposed to go back but never did. Took me YEARS to pay off the $4,000 I still owed him. All the teeth that the appliance was attached to did in fact break at the crack lines and each had to have root canals done - costing thousands more. And if you look at my teeth, from the inside, you can see those are the only teeth moved out and they also tilted to an odd angle.After research and learning more about it I realize he did it all wrong. Besides that I would've been a far better candidate for the myobrace or orthotain type appliances. And now, at the age of 41, I am still dealing with the fallout and now have to get orthodontics AND gum recession treatment to keep from losing all my teeth relatively soon. I'm semi-homeless, trying to get our business up and running and buy a trailer for a ridiculously low amount already. It's so angering to think how easily this could've been avoided. I really think the key flag in your story was switching to a doctor who LISTENED to you and educated you.