The Sweetest Smile
Three-year-old Mariah loves riding her big wheel, playing ball and jumping through her sparkle green hula hoop. Her blue eyes light up at the mention of Dora the Explorer, her dog Lola, and Friday night trips to the mall with Uncle Brian. So when her usually energetic granddaughter got sick this summer and told her “Nanny Mama” that her mouth hurt, Teresa said it was “the final straw.”
In the summer of 2006, immediately after Teresa gained custody of Mariah, she took her granddaughter to a dentist who recommended that the young girl have all her top teeth and some bottom teeth removed because of major decay. Because of transitions in Mariah’s family life and because she couldn’t find a dentist willing to develop a payment plan for her, Teresa continued her search for Mariah’s dental care.
When Mariah finally complained about her mouth this summer, Teresa said she thought Mariah had an abscess in her tooth and decided to “do whatever needs to be done to get her teeth fixed.” She eventually found Children’s Hospital of Richmond and Elizabeth Bortell, Director of Pediatric Dentistry.
“When I first saw Mariah,” recalled Dr. Bortell, “she had three abscesses and facial celulitis due to decayed teeth on the right side.”
Celulitis occurs when an infection goes through the root of a decayed tooth into the soft tissue of the face causing an inflammation resulting in pain, redness, warmth and swelling. The dangerous infection can cause fever and pain and must be managed immediately by either draining the infection and/or removing the damaged tooth.
Because of Mariah’s age and the extensive work that needed to be done, Dr. Bortell recommended Mariah’s treatment be completed in the operating room. In August 2007, a week after her initial exam, Mariah had all 10 of her upper teeth and two of her lower teeth removed, two root canals and two crowns placed on her bottom teeth, and fillings added to the remaining four bottom teeth during the 90-minute procedure.
Mariah’s tooth decay, officially called early childhood caries and often referred to as baby bottle decay, was the result of drinking too many sugary drinks and going to bed with a bottle or cup of juice or milk as an infant and toddler. Although Teresa weaned Mariah from this habit after she came to live with her, the damage to her teeth had already been done.
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