Math is Real Life: Orthodontist Math

by | Aug 1, 2017

Sunlight danced across my son’s shaking foot resting on the dental chair. He was nervous about his visit to the orthodontist. Dr. Mongillo was hunched over my son’s mouth with a Boley gauge in one hand. Under his breath, I could hear numbers being said with pauses afterward.

Inching closer to hear the whispers, I peer down into my son’s mouth. Startled by me standing so close by, Dr. Mongillo pushed back his chair to glance up at me with a smile. I had his attention! My question escaped before I could stop my nerdy self.

“Dr. Mongillo, is that math you’re doing?”

His eyebrows went up with surprise. Most parents ask questions about time and cost of braces, not about the technical work! Dr. Mongillo relaxed and responded cheerfully, “Why yes I am!”

“I’d love to hear more about the math you are doing right now.”

Taken back by my request, he inserted the Boley gauge again in my son’s mouth. I noticed the little jaws of the gauge opening and closing in around the width of the tooth.

“See, I am measuring his teeth and then doing some calculations to estimate the size of his adult teeth. This helps me to know how much room to make for his adult teeth.”

After some swift calculations, Dr. Mongillo shared with me that my son has large adult teeth coming and he needs to make some room. Estimation using an equation allows him to make a treatment plan so he can prepare his mouth for these teeth.

The plan starts with rubber band spacers, then moves to a metal appliance. Following these items, my son will have baby teeth pulled out to make room for his large teeth. I was crazy excited about this conversation for two reasons:

  1. My son is will have a big happy smile like his daddy (one reason I fell in love with him).
  2. I saw math being done out in the real world!

As a math tutor, I am always looking for opportunities to use math in real life. Dr. Mongillo shared the equation he uses to help him do calculations with me. Today, I am sharing a worksheet for real life practice with the kind of work an orthodontist does every day.

Download Your Free Worksheet 

Read about how orthodontists estimate the room needed for adult teeth and practice with 3 case studies of your own.  Take it a step further and use actual Boley gauges to measure teeth to see how your teeth measure up to the formula.

Get your free copy by signing up below.

This post is part of a series my friend Jamie Riggs (Miss Math Dork) has been hosting for over 4 years.  Want to find more posts about Math in Real Life?  Click the image to head over to Miss Math Dork to check them out.

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Adrianne Meldrum

Adrianne Meldrum

Owner of Math for Middles

I’m the owner and creator of the math videos here at Math for Middles.  I’ve tutored students for over ten years.  When I am not creating here, you’ll find me down by the river with my family.  You can read more about me here and how I once was a middle schooler too.
Real Life Math: Orthodontist Math | mathformiddles.com/ortho

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