Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Dentist

Today was the dreaded day- Anthony's first visit to the dentist aka "doomsday"!

Before writing about the visit, I need  to give you a little background information:

Anthony's teeth took a while to come through (typical characteristic of Down syndrome), and when they did come in they didn't follow the normal pattern (also typical of DS). So far, Anthony has a grand total of 8 teeth. That just means we are not in the clear yet and still have many cranky teething moments ahead of us. Oh Joy!

Another side-note, Anthony has always hated anything to do with his own mouth, but he is fascinated by other people's mouths and teeth (we've always joked he was our "little dentist"). Lately, trying to brush his teeth every morning and night is like a form of torture for everyone involved. We give it our best shot, but it ends up being a quick in-and-out job to avoid a huge tantrum.

When Anthony's first two bottom teeth popped up, we knew there would be an orthodontist visit in the future. The two teeth form a "V" together, instead of being straight.

But, honestly, I never really cared about his crooked teeth. If having crooked teeth was the worst of  our problems, we were pretty darn lucky.

Ever since getting his teeth in, Anthony has smiled in a way that would crack us up. We thought he was being a "tough guy", trying to show us his teeth by protruding them over his top lip.  It makes me feel horrible now that I didn't know he wasn't trying to be funny, he was sincerely trying to mimic our smile.

Joe was the first one to notice Anthony's underbite. Since Anthony doesn't like us looking in his mouth, we honestly never knew he had one until one day when Joe saw Anthony's two bottom teeth go over the two top teeth.

I, of course, went to google and read that having an underbite can effect speech and chewing. I knew that it meant I had to call and make an appointment with a dentist. I had hoped I could conveniently "keep forgetting" to set up an appointment since I knew it would be horrible for Anthony, but once the underbite came into play, I knew I had to suck it up and make the call.

 The dentist visit went just as I suspected, a little family trip to hell. It started out fine, well in the waiting room that is. He was being his usually nosey self getting into everything and watching all the people around him. When we got called back, Anthony happily marched down the hall pointing to all of the Disney characters on the wall and acknowledging all the pretty ladies that worked in the office. He had no idea what was to come.

It was called a "lap visit" because Anthony (being only 20 months) was too young to sit in the dentist chair. So, Joe was the designated "bad guy" and held Anthony while his little screaming head was in the lap of the dental assistant. She told me she was going to give his teeth a really good cleaning and put floride on them too. All I could do was laugh and mutter "good luck with that".

Anthony was so scared. He screamed so much that at one point he wasn't breathing, and it was the "silent cry"... that's the worst. So heartbreaking! I tried to hold up my phone with his favorite Sesame Street video to calm him down but he probably had no idea it was even there since his eyes were squeezed shut and he was yelling so loud.

I'll admit, it was a pretty effective way to clean his teeth. Aside from all the screaming, she was able to do everything she said.

It took a while to calm him down before he saw the dentist. She looked in his mouth, which again was a whole big fight. Then, we were able to discuss our concerns. She said an underbite can't be corrected in someone this young. Our only option is to monitor it, and hopefully start correcting it when he is 6 or 7 (that is the youngest, it could possibly have to wait until he is older). The thing that made me nervous was when she said it was a severe underbite. His two bottom teeth cover his two top teeth 100%. She also told us that it is possible his jaw could continue to grow and jut out, which would cause an even bigger problem. Since he has an underbite he is more likely to break his teeth if he falls, so we have to be cautious about that too.

It felt like a lot to take in.... but she wasn't done with the news yet. She also noted that the two teeth on either side of his bottom front teeth had not come in yet. That typically wouldn't be a concern, but since Anthony already started getting molars in, it was a red flag to her. Molars are supposed to come in last, and even though getting teeth in is more sporadic for individuals with Down syndrome, it could be a sign that Anthony might never grow those teeth.  She told us that she had seen cases before in children with DS where their teeth just never grew because the "buds" under the gums were never there. If this indeed happens to Anthony, he might have to have braces to shift his teeth and close in the holes, or get false teeth in their place. However, she didn't recommend fake teeth because individuals with DS are at a higher risk of getting gum disease.

Honestly, I liked the doctor and the people that worked in the office but I was left feeling really scared and overwhelmed. There was a lot of  worst case scenarios brought to our attention and it felt a little unnecessary.

I think the hardest part about all of this, as a mother, is thinking about my little boy going through elementary school with a severe underbite. It leaves me with a pit in my stomach thinking that he might get made fun of for that. I want more than anything in the world for my son to be accepted and loved by his peers.

But, I have to bring myself back to reality. I am so lucky. Anthony is a healthy little boy, and not everyone can say the same about their child. It seems so petty that I can complain about something cosmetic going on with my son, and I hope that it's the only thing I have to complain about ever.

I just love this little guy more than anything in the world and it's never easy knowing it might be a bumpy road ahead.. cosmetic or not.


  1. It's okay to feel a bit of fear and caution for Anthony's dental visit. He's young and have yet to really face the world, so he isn't used to meeting different types of folks. He's also only has 8 functioning teeth right now, so a lot of things can happen between now and later. Still, it was a good call on your part to keep on with the dental visits. Better that these kids meet the dentist at a much earlier date, so they will be familiar with them, enough to be at ease with their presence during future dental visits.

    Bettye Primm @ Back Mountain Dental

  2. Anthony went through such a struggle in that first dental visit. But those are just birth pangs. Now that he's gotten over his fear, it’ll be easier the next time you have to take him to the dentist. Regular checkups could also help him get accustomed to it, and bringing some toys could help divert his attention, should he still feel uncomfortable later on. Take care!

    Isabel Phelps @ Buckhead Dentist