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The orthodontic treatments that led to lifetimes of pain

‘This is a very painful thing to admit,” says Emily Roberts, a 47-year-old teacher from south London, “but my entire adult life has been shaped by trying to survive what has been done to me.”

Roberts (not her real name) is one of hundreds of British people who believe that they have been unintentionally maimed by orthodontists — dentists who specialise in irregular teeth and jaws. Along with thousands of others around the world, they share their experiences and post photographs and x-rays on Facebook groups. They say that lifelong damage was done to them as children — not by shady backstreet operators but by regular high street practitioners. Many say that as a result their adult lives have been blighted by painful and debilitating symptoms.

“I’ve spent my entire adult life working on my body to try to get my posture right or get out of pain,” Roberts says. She has seen neurologists, osteopaths, pain-management specialists. Nothing has worked. 

She considered taking legal action against the orthodontist who initially treated her — for seven years in total — but the UK’s statute of limitations states that claims for dental negligence must be made within three years of the treatment and the time limit elapsed while she was still considering her options. 

Lauren Packham, 36, was 12 years old when she had four premolar teeth removed to correct an overbite that she says “wasn’t even that bad”. She then wore fixed braces and elastics to retract her teeth. In her twenties she had three wisdom teeth removed after they became painful. “If I knew what I know now, I wouldn’t have had them out,” she says.

In the past few years Packham, who lives in Plymouth, has suffered worsening jaw pain and migraines. She has also experienced sleep problems since her late teens. “If I sleep on my back, my breathing just cuts off. I’ve since had a diagnosis of sleep-disordered breathing.”

A Harley Street sleep specialist doctor she saw privately pointed to her orthodontic treatment as the likely cause of her health issues.

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Source: The Times, 11 February 2024

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