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A Beautiful Smile

Posted Jun 13 2009 12:24am

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.
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