Life at times can be very hectic. Moms and dads have busy schedules. Picking their children up from school and taking them to the orthodontist is no simple task. Sometimes the appointments are very short and can seem meaningless. One of these appointments is the observation or recall visit. These appointments are usually less than 15 minutes and many wonder if they are really necessary at all. Recall or observation appointments are very important, and here’s why…
Observation or recall visits are scheduled for orthodontic patients who are either not yet quite ready for braces (where we may be waiting for a tooth or two to erupt) or have had a first phase of treatment already and are waiting for their remaining permanent teeth to come in so they can finish their orthodontic treatment. The orthodontist often will take a progress x-ray at this appointment to help him evaluate your child’s dental development. There are three things that I look for when your son or daughter is in my chair.
First, if the patient has had an interceptive phase of treatment, the first order of business is checking the condition of the retainers. Our Phase 1 retainers removable retainers designed to hold the correction of the teeth me made with braces, and to hold the space so the remaining permanent teeth can erupt into position as best as possible. If a retainer comes loose or is lost, the teeth would be free to shift or move and the result of the initial treatment compromised. It only takes a couple of minutes to adjust a loose retainer. If the teeth have shifted it is not so easy to realign teeth without putting the braces back on. Another type of retainer we use in young patients is called a space maintainer. It is designed to preserve the space necessary for the eruption of a permanent tooth after the corresponding tooth is lost early. It is at a recall appointment that we determine when it is appropriate to remove a space maintainer.
The second objective of this appointment is to evaluate the loss of primary teeth and the eruption of the permanent replacements. Losing primary teeth on time and in the right order can help the permanent teeth come in straighter. If I notice that a baby tooth is not falling out on time, or I identify in an x-ray that the permanent teeth are headed in the wrong direction, I usually recommend that a patient see their family dentist to get the baby tooth in question removed. Evaluating the loss of primary teeth and the eruption of permanent ones really doesn’t take much time, but ignoring developing problems can add months or years to a patient’s orthodontic treatment.
The third objective of any observation appointment is to counsel with the family about the timing of the next phase of treatment. My philosophy is that I will begin no treatment before a patient is ready. This might mean waiting a few months or even years. If we start too early, your son or daughter may have the braces on too long. If we wait too long, we might miss the opportunity to keep treatment as short as possible or end up extending it high school years where important prom or graduation events happen, which interfering with them is not too popular with patients or their families!
Having your orthodontist follow your child’s development will help them receive the care they need when they need it. Although observation and recall appointment are short and sometimes seem like a wasted trip, your orthodontist knows exactly what to look for at an observation or recall appointment and will make sure that your child is progressing towards an excellent orthodontic result. Next time your son or daughter has an observation visit with your orthodontist, make sure and ask for an explanation of the things he was looking for and what he found. I think you’ll find that these short, to-the-point appointments are as important as any appointment you’ll ever have.