What Is the Purpose of an Orthodontic Observation or Recall Appointment?

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a mother and daughter listen to a hygienist or doctor describe an x-ray

Moms and dads have busy schedules. Picking their children up from school and taking them to the orthodontist is no small task. Sometimes the appointments are very short and seemingly meaningless. One of these appointments is the observation or recall visit. These appointments are usually about 10 minutes in our office and many wonder if they are 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 or have had an interceptive phase of treatment and are waiting for their remaining permanent teeth to come in so they can finish. We may take a progress x-ray at this appointment to evaluate your child’s dental development. There are three things we look for when your son or daughter is in our office for this type of appointment.

First, if the patient has had an interceptive phase of treatment, the first order of business is checking the condition of the retainers. If the retainer is not fitting correctly the teeth will move and the result of the initial treatment is compromised. It only takes a couple of minutes to check, and adjust if necessary. 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 Dr. Igel notices that a baby tooth is not falling out on time, or identifies in an x-ray that the permanent teeth are headed in the wrong direction, he may recommend that a patient see their family dentist to get the offending baby tooth removed. Evaluating the loss of primary teeth and the eruption of permanent ones doesn’t take much time, but ignoring developing problems can add months or years to a patient’s orthodontic treatment.

The third objective of an observation appointment is to counsel the family about the timing of the next phase of treatment. Dr. Igel’s philosophy that he will not begin 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 into the prom or graduation years of high school (not usually popular with the teenagers or parents.)

Timely follow-up of your child’s development will help ensure they receive the care they need when they need it. Although these appointments are short and can seem like a wasted trip, rest assured that Dr. Igel knows exactly what he is looking for at an observation or recall appointment and will make sure that your child is progressing towards an excellent orthodontic result. These short, to-the-point appointments are as important as any you’ll ever have.