Have you ever sneezed and immediately felt grateful you were sitting because your teeth landed in your lap? That is exactly what happened to me recently. That is just one of the many reasons I’ve started the journey to dental implants.
My sister and I were both born with AEC syndrome, a form of ectodermal dysplasias. My 9 year old son is affected by the syndrome, as well as my sister’s three children. My sister was born with a cleft lip and palate and only 6 permanent teeth buds. I was born with a cleft palate and eight permanent teeth buds. Our parents insurance provided coverage for the repair of my sister’s cleft lip and palate as well as my cleft palate.
As I mentioned in the video above, I received my first denture when I was about eight years old. My first denture was an “over-denture.” Basically, it was a full denture that fitted over the few natural teeth I had.
It had been decided to preserve my baby jaw teeth as long as possible by crowning them. The root of a tooth is sort of like the root of a tree planted on a hill—as long as that root is in place, the soil—or gum—around it will hold up. Remove the root and the soil—or gum—begins to erode. So, while my baby teeth were being preserved to help preserve my gum, there weren’t enough of them to allow me to effectively chew. Thus, the over-denture for the top jaw and partial plate for the lower jaw.
Try as we might, we were only able to keep my upper teeth until I was in my early teens. Without the teeth roots there to hold the bone in place, my upper gum eroded. When I was seventeen I had my upper jaw broken (twice, actually) and moved forward, my bottom jaw reduced, and bone grafted from my right hip into my upper jaw and gum. The goal was to get me started on the journey to dental implants.
Then I turned eighteen. Ahh. Eighteen. Such a magical age, right? One of the magical things that happened for me is that I was no longer covered under my Dad’s health insurance and had to get insurance through my own employer. The insurance carrier refused to cover anything related to dental implants. So, I continued to wear a conventional denture.
Now it’s been twenty some-odd years since the bone grafting and jaw surgery and my conventional denture just isn’t cutting it anymore. Once again, there are foods that I’m just not able to eat or that I don’t eat like I should. It’s difficult to chew meat, so I just cut it small enough to swallow without chewing (sorry, gut).
Oh, and then there are the embarrassing moments when my denture loses suction. Like when I’m talking or singing. I love to sing during worship on Sundays. Nothing puts a damper on an attitude of worship like the thought of having to scamper around on your hands and knees to retrieve the pink plastic that was your gum line, only to find it had been smashed to smithereens when it hit the concrete sanctuary floor! Yup, that thought is pretty sobering.
So here I am at the start of my journey to dental implants.
I’m often told I have a great smile (it cost me enough, it should be great!). Last year I did something that I don’t ever do. Jodi, the Director of Marketing and Communications for the National Foundation for Ectodermal Dysplasias, was taking a few pictures of me. In fact, she took the photo above.
As I smiled, I jokingly asked her if she’d like a picture of me without my teeth. I generally don’t allow my picture to be taken without my teeth. But when Jodi responded with, “YES!” I took my teeth out and held my hand up. I allowed Jodi to take my picture without my teeth in because I trust her. I’ve known her forever. I also knew that she would use it for advocacy and awareness.
See, I was right. Anyway, I didn’t realize just how close to home having the power to smile would hit. I know that teeth are not just cosmetic. They are absolutely essential to health and nutrition, not to mention esteem.
I was unable to attend the annual Family Conference for the National Foundation for Ectodermal Dysplasia or the Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill today. Nevertheless, an NFED family is hand delivering letters that I wrote to my Senators and Representative today, asking them to make it mandatory that health insurances cover dental issues that arise from a medical problem like mine.
We need a federal law that will mandate health insurance companies and employer sponsored self-insured health benefits plans cover congenital anomalies and birth abnormalities from the moment of birth as an injury or sickness, covering the functional repair or restoration of any body part, including the TEETH and bone that holds the teeth, when necessary to achieve normal bodily function.
I hope you’ll follow me on the journey to dental implants, and I hope you’ll follow the National Foundation for Ectodermal Dysplasia as they advocate for families like mine.