In my Case It is Necessary the Extraction of Four Premolars? What Should my Next Step Be? (photo)

Hi, I recently visited a dentist and without an x-ray and after 2 minutes examination she told me that I needed 4 premolars extractions as well as the wisdom teeth in order to get braces. My question is: is an extraction of so many teeth is really needed in my case? What are my options and my next step? what type of clear/invisible braces would work on me? and also what would the right procedure be in my case? Many thanks

Doctor Answers 3

Extraction of 4 premolars

Once again a misleading and incorrect response to a question on orthodontic extractions forces me to put in my two cents worth.

Of course you need a much more thorough diagnosis before committing to extractions, but for Dr.Lockhart to state that "This is antiquated orthodontics that potentially ruins airways, faces and jaw joints" is simply not true.  Extraction of premolars is just a tool, used correctly it is often the best way to obtain a stable and esthetic result...used incorrectly and its not!

No good scientific peer reviewed study supports Dr Lockhart's position only his (and other doctors) non-extraction at any cost belief system.  I certainly think you need to get more opinions...but just as much to protect yourself from doctors on his end of the spectrum as from doctors who may take out too many teeth.

for what it is worth here is my white paper on this subject:

In response to another doctor’s comments about how wrong extractions for orthodontics is I am providing copy from a newsletter I wrote on this subject…If you REALLY want to know about this subject, read it!


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.


Saint Louis Orthodontist

Bicuspid (Pre-molar) extractions are seldom a good solution to crowding.

With your dentist's two minute evaluation, she is not giving you a comprehensive evaluation, necessary in today's progressive orthodontics. There is much more to an ideal smile and lower facial beauty then just straight teeth.  The function of the jaw joints (TMJ), facial and neck muscle function, proper nasal breathing, dental arch forms and their relationship to the face and to each other, oral habits, and even head posture all can be effected by the teeth and any teeth corrections, and must be evaluated.  The days of the orthodontic solution of just removing four bicuspid teeth and aligning the others, are numbered, as a more holistic and comprehensive approach is taking hold.  People are becoming more educated and are now beginning to demand it.  Please seek another, more informed, opinion.

Kent Lauson, DDS, MS
Denver Orthodontist

Is Extracting FOUR Bicuspids Necessary Before Doing Orthodontics?

DO NOT proceed with the extraction of four bicuspid teeth unless at least three highly competent dentists do a complete and thorough evaluation and all three agree that extraction of bicuspids is your ONLY treatment option. SELDOM is four bicuspid extractions the best treatment option. This is antiquated orthodontics that potentially ruins airways, faces and jaw joints. There is much more to orthodontic treatment than simply straightening teeth. Moving teeth should enhance your airway and beautify your face. 

Good luck!

Brad Lockhart, DDS
Tustin Dentist
5.0 out of 5 stars 13 reviews

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.