By Tina Moss
Being a mother is challenging. Being the mother of a child with hypohidrotic ectodermal dysplasia (HED) takes challenging to another level. After our son Jacob was diagnosed with HED, his father and I knew that he would require a lot of dental work culminating in implants when he was a young adult.
As a carrier I have some of the symptoms of HED, one of them being a number of missing teeth, and I had some significant baggage where dentistry was concerned. The specter of putting my only child through the long dental implant process felt insurmountable to me.
I was consumed by rational and irrational fears to the point of having to run out of an implant seminar during a NFED family conference five minutes after it started.
Jake was quite young at the time, only four or five, but the prospect of what he was going to face later in life was too much for me. I bolted. Jake’s father stayed, gathered information, and came away excited about the advances being made in implant technology. He assured me that by the time Jake was ready it would be a whole new world. Yeah, right. I still felt like throwing up.
Fast forward 20 years and Jake’s implant journey is finally over. He is the proud owner of a glorious set of teeth. They are his own as much as any teeth he might have grown himself, and no one would ever know they’d been fabricated in a lab.
Jake survived, his father and I survived, and now with the luxury of hindsight, I can say that while difficult and scary at times, accompanying Jake on his implant journey was an experience in which I grew as a parent.
I learned to let go and trust my child, and came though with flying colors in a way the terrified mother of four-year-old Jake would have thought impossible. Much of this is due to Jake’s courage and strength of character, as well as the skill, dedication and kindness of our dental team.
After a false start with a prosthodontist who instilled more anxiety and confusion than confidence, we were referred to the oral surgeon who did Jake’s upper jaw bone graft and implanted a total of ten screws in his upper and lower jaws, and the prosthodontist who engineered and oversaw the manufacture of his teeth.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to have medical professionals you trust, who will take the time to explain things to you and your child, more than once or twice if necessary, and who collaborate well together.
Jake’s oral surgeon, Peter Moy, D.M.D., and his prosthodontist, Harel Simon, D.M.D., were exemplary in every way. Due to the complicated nature of Jake’s case, they spent hours meeting to discuss, plan and engineer the transformation of Jake’s jaw and the placement of the implant screws.
These two men enabled me to let go of some of my trepidation and fear over what Jake would be going through and about the eventual outcome. I also realized I had to deal with and let go of my personal dental baggage in order to be the kind of mother I wanted to be for my son as he embarked on what would end up being a five-year process.
Jake got through his multiple surgeries with remarkable maturity and an absence of external drama. He healed quickly and had minimal discomfort. I hovered over him, checking, asking questions, forcing soft foods on him and obsessing until I figured out that I needed to do these things more for myself than for him.
I knew Jake struggled with anxiety about many aspects of what he was going through, and I tried, probably unsuccessfully, to mitigate some of this, but at a certain point I had to have faith that he would ultimately be okay.
For me, a huge turning point in the entire adventure occurred after Jake’s surgery to implant six screws into his upper jaw bone. Once the surgery was over, I was escorted into Dr. Moy’s consult room where I found Jake in a wheelchair still woozy from general anesthesia. Dr. Moy showed us the postoperative x-ray of Jake’s jaw with the newly implanted screws in place.
As I stared at the image on the computer screen I felt a shift inside of me. What I saw was not only six perfectly vertical titanium screws in Jake’s jaw but also an amazing and beautiful image in and of itself.
Art and technology combined; all there implanted in my son’s jaw. While I held onto a healthy amount of fear and concern about bone graft or implant failure my outlook veered more in the direction of excitement and anticipation.
Jake was a freshman in college when he underwent his surgical procedures and was able to get himself to and from his follow-up appointments with Dr. Moy and the many appointments with Dr. Simon as he began the painstaking work of creating the perfect set of teeth to attach to the ten screws in Jake’s mouth. This took a very long time and after the first few appointments to which I did accompany him, it dawned on me that I was no longer needed.
Jake made his own appointments and communicated with Dr. Simon through text and email when he needed to. He started the implant process as a teenager but was now a young adult who, by the time the permanent teeth were done and in his mouth had graduated from college, no longer lived at home and had a job. When the implant process began it seemed as if it would never end.
Now that it is finally over, Jake’s smile is beautiful to behold. Not just because of the teeth but because of the confidence and maturity that smile exudes. As a parent, this is the best reward I can imagine receiving after all the years of planning, worrying, and wondering how it would all turn out.
I wish I could travel back in time and tell the terrified mother who rushed out of the implant session so long ago that all would be well. That there would be some difficult times but that her amazing boy would not only survive, but would thrive as a result of his challenges, and so would she.
Read Jacob’s perspective on the dental implant process:
Read another Mom’s perspective on the earlier stages of dental care: