"Say what you have to say, and not what you ought."
~ Henry David Thoreau

Monday, November 14, 2016


When Gillian was very young we discovered she was missing many of her teeth. The medical term for this condition is Oligodontia, which means a person is missing more than 6 teeth, excluding wisdom teeth. My first clue should have been when she was a baby and started getting her teeth, which ironically enough, she did at a relatively young age. I proudly recorded each new tooth in her baby book. Before too long the teeth coming in didn't at all match the neat, orderly tooth diagram in the baby book. I didn't give this much thought, instead chalking it up to me being confused about which teeth were coming in. Oh, to be that naive again! 

Gillian - age 8, before getting her 1st braces on.
Not too many years later I knew there was a problem, although I still didn't fully understand the magnitude of it. At eight years old Gillian had her first set of braces put on. Over the next 10 years she would be in and out of braces three times and undergo some very painful dental procedures. The ten years of orthodontics were in preparation for a time in what used to seem like the distant future when she would be able to have permanent tooth implants put in. Nothing permanent could be done until she was completely done growing, which we guessed would be around age 18. 

She's been patient and brave through it all. It hasn't been easy for her. Young kids don't like to be different from their peers. Having to wear retainers with false teeth glued onto them for all of her childhood was a difficult thing for her to endure. Today, after years of consultations, waiting, prep, adjustments, and some difficult decisions, she was finally able to start the process of getting permanent teeth placed in her mouth. From there we went directly to the oral surgeon's office. It was an emotional day for both of us. For her there was the anxiety and fear of the unknown. For me, it was the anxiety I'm sure every parent feels when leaving their child in the hands of a doctor, however skilled, to administer anaesthesia and operate on their child. 

I'm happy to report the surgery went well. She had seven titanium posts placed in her jawbone. As of today she has 16 teeth. Most adults have 32 permanent teeth, including their wisdom teeth. If all goes according to plan, in three months she'll have permanent crowns put in place by her dentist, bringing her total number of teeth to 23. As I waited with her in the recovery room one of the nurses handed me the five baby teeth that were removed today. I wonder if I'm supposed to make sure the tooth fairy pays a visit tonight, even if the teeth she lost should have fallen out 12 years ago?

Gillian has come so far in the last ten years. The happy, smiling little girl in the picture above is now an independent young woman. She's gone from being completely dependent on me to manage her care to taking a primary role in making decisions with her team of providers. She's learned to be an informed patient who asks intelligent questions and advocates for herself. Her case isn't a simple one. It's required years of communication and coordination between her dentist, orthodontist and oral surgeon (all of whom have shown an amazing level of care and dedication to her treatment over the years). 
I snapped this picture after Gillian was home and resting with Lucy making sure she wasn't left alone. Today it was nice to have simply be my little girl again, and I relished every moment of being able to take care of her.