Friday, July 13, 2007

A Beautiful Smile


Have you noticed that a great many children and adults with significant disabilities have dental issues? Teeth that are horribly crooked – bite problems – chewing problems. Many if not most of these issues could be solved with braces, but I never have seen a child with significant disabilities with braces. Why is that?

Braces for children who are not disabled have become almost as common as childhood immunizations. I can’t think of any friend of my non-disabled son who has not had braces, and sometimes braces twice. My son has had braces twice. His dentist referred us to an orthodontist very early on. The first set of braces was designed to make my son’s mouth a little larger so that his permanent teeth would have room to erupt. The second set was to ensure straight, near-perfect teeth. And his orthodontist succeeded with his efforts. My son’s smile is absolutely beautiful now.

When Corey joined our family, it was obvious that he also needed braces. However, since he was my fourth child, finding the money for braces on a single parent’s salary was impossible. Fortunately, I was able to convince his grandparents to pay for his braces. And now, he is well on his way to a beautiful smile also.

Today Ashley visited the dentist. Not only does she have a large gap between her two front teeth, she also has had teeth erupt in the wrong locations, e.g. a molar-type tooth in front of an eye tooth. As a result of this, she often bites the inside of her cheek, and she is reluctant to try foods that would need a lot of chewing – meat for instance. The dentist told me today that he would be referring us to an orthodontist but not to expect Medicaid (Ashley’s insurance) to pay for them. Medicaid, he said, only pays for braces in extreme situations and Ashley wouldn’t qualify. There is no way I would be able to come up with the money for her braces. So, she joins the ranks of other children with significant disabilities who endure dental problems their whole lives.

I don’t understand the reasoning behind this. The cost of addressing Ashley’s cheek injuries and the feeding therapy she will need will be much greater than the cost of braces. And while braces would certainly help her appearance, and subsequently her acceptance in society, that is not the primary reason I want them for her. But, I do want her to have the opportunity for the improved appearance.

Do orthodontists ever do pro bono work like attorneys do? Are there any foundations or organizations that can help children like Ashley with this much needed medical service? If anyone has any information or leads I can check out, please let me know.

5 comments:

Attila The Mom said...

Heh, unfortunately Little Guy inherited my crooked teeth (I had braces for 5 years).

We've done our best to make sure that he doesn't stand out physically, if you know what I mean---regular dental care and now braces, trendy clothes and haircuts, etc.

Yes, it's superficial. By hey, some parents are getting their teenagers nose jobs and boob jobs. LOL

ballastexistenz said...

When I was a teenager, my parents took me to a dentist, and the dentist told them that people like me don't need straight teeth anyway.

(My teeth were so crowded I had to get four of them taken out of the front a few months after that dentist said that, just so they would fit, and they still overlap a bit in places.)

Ashley's Mom said...

Ballast,
Although the doctors haven't said that to me in so many words, I know that is what they are thinking. To say that makes me very angry, is an understatement.

Assistive technology said...

This is kind of depressing. I wish that there was more in place to help you. I don't know what might cause it or if it's coincidence. Maybe people just think that it isn't worth the effort just because of the disabilities. Which is almost nauseating it's so upsetting to think about.

Susan said...

Teeth, haircuts, and clothing. Yes, I have seen people with disabilities whose teeth make me cringe - but I try to remember that orthodontic treatment requires some access to health care, a patient to comply with keeping rubber bands on, etc. But why on earth do I see so many young adults and teenagers with disabilities with haircuts that look like a bowl was put on their head and someone took pinking shears to them or wearing clothes that even Good Will would reject as outdated and unusable?

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