Can I Fix my Mild Crowding Without Extraction of Bicuspids?

i am 23 years old and cosidering getting braces for my crowded teeth so that my smile and face can be more symmetrical. so far i hav visited two orthos who say i need extraction yet i do not want to extract my healthy teeth. i plan on visiting other orthos to get a second opinion but i would like to know what you think. i've attached some pics of my teeth. my bottom row of teeth are perfectly straight with no crowding at all and my top teeth have a bit of crowding. ps: i grind my teeth at night

Doctor Answers 10

Tooth extractions shouldn't be needed

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There are very few situations where removing teeth is needed to correct mild crowding.  There are ways to create the space needed to align teeth without removing teeth.  Seek another opinion as I believe that removing the teeth  could be detrimental.  Some people don't believe there is a correlation between the bite and grinding but you say that you grind your teeth.  Removing your teeth and retracting the remaining teeth to align them and close the new gaps can in my opinion stimulate further tooth grinding and possibly have an impact on your airway contributing to sleep breathing problems as well.

Toronto Dentist

Mild Crowinding without tooth extractions

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Short Answer: yes, you can treat a mildly crowded case with out extraction

Long Answer: There is usually little reason to ever extract a tooth on a mildly crowded case, even if there is a bite issue. That said crowding is a factor as well as bite  and overall aesthetic desired result when finally determining if teeth will be extracted or not.

If you are even moderately crowded there are other ways to create space without pulling teeth.

Jacqueline Demko, DDS, MSD
Chesterfield Orthodontist

No Extraction Needed

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Congratulations on getting your teeth straightened.  No extractions should be needed and you may be able to shorten the overall time in braces since the problem is not very severe.  Keep them really clean, wear any elastics the need really well and you should be done before you know it.  The pictures you included were really very helpful.

Clark L. Jones, DDS, MSD
Phoenix Orthodontist

Get Some More Opinions

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I totally agree with the doctors below that in your case, extractions should not be necessary and may lead to spaces being left once the case is completed if the space you need is less than the size of the teeth being extracted.  You should have a few more consultations with younger orthodontists or those that are well trained in non-extraction orthodontics before making any final decisions.  Two things to keep in mind are that you may have a larger overjet (that is, the horzontal overlap between the upper and lower teeth) once your case is completed and being sure to align your midline (which is currently off).  These can be overcome in many cases by completing IPR, a minor reduction in the width of each tooth, then retracting them to close up the spaces and the extra overjet. Other options for your case may be available so be sure to discuss all your options before proceeding with treatment.

Good Luck!!

Gary Nack, DDS
Philadelphia Dentist

Crowing doesn't mean bicuspid tooth extractions are necessary

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Follow me on this.  Although traditional orthodontics accepts bicuspid extractions as necessary when crowding of the dentition is present, extractions are becoming less and less popular in recent years.    This is for many reasons, but a primary one is that the public (patients) don't want extractions of good permanent teeth.  Also evidence has shown that extractions can lead to many unwanted side effects.  Orthodontists have worked hard at solving this dilemma over the years and now proven non-extraction  techniques exist.  So the short answer is that bicuspid extractions are soon becoming a thing of the past and in mild crowding cases, only a non-enlightened dentist would recommend extractions.

Almost never a good idea to extract bicuspids.

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Almost never a good idea to extract bicuspids.  You create a smaller airway which is ok if you aren't concerned about your long .  Look into a DNA Appliance.  Expansion Orthopedics improves physiology contraction orthodontics threatens it.

Extraction controversy

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                 NOT ANOTHER NEWSLETTER (volume III)   


Since much of orthodontics is still not “evidenced based”, and treatments are often influenced by the prejudices (conscious and unconscious) of the practitioners, it is not surprising that different orthodontists often seem to give very different answers to the same problem (just ask a few: “how many months do you require full time retainer wear after braces?”).  For what’s its worth, we would like to use these newsletters to give you our philosophies of treatment to help you with your referrals and to understanding the care of our mutual patients. The following is a revised reprint of an article we did for the Missouri Dental Journal.


Premolar Extractions Controversy


There is probably no facet of orthodontic treatment that has caused as much controversy as the decision to extract, or not to extract, permanent teeth: and more specifically, whether to extract four premolars or to “develop” room for non-extraction treatment.


Besides the obvious reasons of avoiding the trauma and expense of surgery, and the desire to preserve permanent teeth; other alleged negative sequela, such as TMD problems, flattened facial profiles, and “dark buccal corridors” have contributed to the premolar extraction controversy. Like a pendulum, the popularity of premolar extractions has swung back and forth, between the extremes of non-extraction at any cost and “routine” extractions to achieve arbitrary cephalometric norms.


Some of the factors we consider are:


  • When dealing with a fairly “normal” orthodontic problem (no gross asymmetries) the decision to extract four premolars is straightforward although often not easy. It is impossible to extract less than a whole tooth, and usually the extraction of a tooth on the left requires an extraction on the right to balance the midline. Likewise, lower extractions usually require upper extractions (and visa versa) to prevent excessive overjet or underbite. These parameters normally lead to extraction of four first premolars or to treat as a non-extraction case. There are times when upper premolars only, a single lower incisor extraction, molar extraction, or interproximal enamel reduction (IPR) are appropriate but, in general, the decision for extractions is often framed around “4-bi’s”.


  • Given the usual all or nothing nature of the premolar extraction decision, it is no surprise that different orthodontists often appear to have conflicting treatment plans for the same patient. The reason is not that they see very different problems or have radically different philosophies of treatment, but rather that each doctor has a different line in the gray area between extractions and nonextraction. Two treatment plans that appear very different can both be based on a similar analysis of the patient’s problem, but end up with very different treatments due to the black and white nature of the decision making process.


  • It is important to understand that in borderline cases there are no correct or right answers. Both treatments performed by competent orthodontists would produce a good result, but neither is perfect. Each option would have pros and cons, and orthodontists and dentists could (and do!) spend endless amounts of time debating which option is “right”.


  • We try to avoid extractions as much as possible, but extractions should be considered when esthetics and stability call for it.  Truthfully, almost any patient can be treated without extractions and, often, this is technically the easier way.  This is the reason that the weekend orthodontic courses aimed at general dentists almost always stress nonextraction treatment.


  • Where there is a conflict between facial esthetics and dental stability, it is our judgment to favor esthetics.  This is not to say that patients with flat facial profiles and extreme crowding should be treated without extractions, nor that patients with full profiles and large tongues should have teeth extracted, but rather that esthetics should be the primary determinant of treatment in any borderline situation.  In these cases it is very important that the patient understands the necessity of long-term retention


  • Contrary to the beliefs of many nonextraction proponents, good scientific studies (evidenced based) done on TMD and orthodontic treatment fail to show any correlation between the development of TMD type problems and the extraction (or nonextraction) of teeth.  All dentists can remember patients who develop TMD problems after extraction treatment and, if you feel there is a correlation, you will fixate on these patients.  Statistically, you are just as likely to find TMD problems in patients treated nonextraction or, for that matter, patients who never received orthodontic treatment at all.


  • Scientific studies have also shown that well treated extraction cases do not adversely affect facial profiles.  Again, it is easy to visualize patients with flat profiles who have had premolar extractions.  Assuming a good treatment decision, these patients would have had a flat profile even if they never had treatment (and an extremely unstable dental alignment if they had been treated without extractions). The truth is: tight facial structures (flat faces) lead to crowding, which leads to extraction rather than extractions cause flat faces. As a matter of fact, the most dished in and flattened faces often belong to those patients whom we have treated without any extractions. Like the TMD controversy, negative esthetic effects attributed to extractions fall into our favorite logical fallacy “post hoc ergo propter hoc” (after this therefore because of this).  Other studies have also shown that dark buccal corridors and a narrow smile are not “caused” by premolar extractions. 


  • A good selling point for premolar extractions can be a patient with moderate crowding and well-formed and positioned third molars.  Treated without premolar extractions this patient usually needs third molars removed. Extract premolars, close some of the space by mesial movement of the posterior teeth, and hopefully the thirds can erupt and be kept—an exchange of four small, easily removed teeth for four molars that would be difficult to extract. Unfortunately no guarantee can be made that the thirds will always come in with enough room.


  • There seems to be a great deal of confusion about early expansion treatment (AKA arch development or growth modification).  There is a important difference between expanding a constricted upper arch to match a normal lower arch (OK) and significantly expanding both arches in a patient whose arches may be narrow, but are in a normal transverse occlusal relationship to each other (not OK).  Although it is possible to upright lingually verted lower posterior arches (which may have collapsed in, to compensate for a narrow maxillary arch), it is not possible to expand the mandibular basal bone, as there is no suture to distract as in the maxilla.  Of all the inviolate “facts” of orthodontics, one of the most established is the stability of the lower inter-canine width.  Expansion beyond the original width is almost a guarantee of collapse and recrowding.


  • Every decade or so a new “magic bullet” comes along promising the ability to create space and avoid extractions or unstable expansion.  The latest iteration of this is the Damon™ orthodontic bracket with its manufacturer’s promise of extremely light forces that “grow” more room than regular braces.  As usual, no good science backs up these claims!


In an attempt to avoid first premolar extractions, various alternatives can be considered:


o    Expanding the arch, especially in a flat-faced individual, is often preferable to extractions, with the understanding this is an unstable correction and perpetual detention will be needed.


o    For patients with a good posterior occlusion, a good upper arch with relatively small upper incisors, moderately severe lower crowding, and minimal overbite, the extraction of a lower incisor can be considered. Extraction of an incisor should be evaluated very carefully, for it can result in an untreatable problem with excessive overjet/overbite in the wrong individual.


o    Interproximal enamel reduction (IPR) can provide a moderate amount of room but should be reserved for older patients. Excessive IPR as an initial treatment complicates the orthodontist’s ability to correct minor relapses in the future.


o    Consider extraction of second premolars rather than first premolars. Theoretically, this reduces the amount of anterior retraction when only some space is needed for crowding and the facial profile is acceptable.  This works best when the second premolars resemble the first, but large, molar-like second premolars may provide too much room and small, canine-like first premolars may not work against first molars.


o    Distilization of full arches is very difficult so extraction of third molars or even second molars to provide anterior room has never been shown to provide significant space.  With the advent of temporary anchorage devises (TAD’s) this may become a “new” way to treat nonextraction…. we’re already trying it!


Bottom line: Extractions are just a tool, not good or bad in themselves.  Used right, they improve the quality of treatment, used wrong they may create a poor result.

Robert Waxler, DMD, MS
Saint Louis Orthodontist

Mild crowding and extraction

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Mild crowding alone does not justify extraction. I like to treat my patients without extractions when possible.  Some cases do require extraction to improve the bite or facial esthetics (lip and face balance).

Hasan Othman, DDS, MS, PhD
Lombard Orthodontist

Mild Crowding without extractions

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Yes.  In fact, with our Damon system, you can correct mild to moderate and sometimes severe crowning without extractions of bicuspid.  Extraction of four permanent teeth (bicuspids) used to be the standard of care in about 30% to 40% of our patient.  However, now with the latest technology, the Damon system, we are now able to fit moderate or even severe crowning without having to take out permanent bicuspids.  This allows for fuller broader smile that will last a lifetime.  Research now shows a the bone as well as the tissue remodels and creates a fuller brighter smile and aesthetically more pleasing smile.  I encouraged anyone that has been prescribed for bicuspid extraction to seek a second opinion as there is now better technology.

Ron D. Wilson, DMD
Gainesville Orthodontist

Extractions for mild crowding

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For a decision to be made more information would be necessary.  I would look at your cephalometric x-ray to determine if your front teeth are flared forward.  If that is the case I too would recommend extractions because I do not like crooked or straight teeth that appear "flared.''  In my office I would still considering non-extraction if the patient insists with the understanding that the teeth will be aligned but may appear "flared".

Michael Minars, DMD
Miami Orthodontist

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.