How Dare He?

The following is a reprint from my personal blog from almost two years ago, and I am still struggling to find appropriate dental and orthodontic care for my daughter with special needs. Have any of you run into something similar – medical professionals who feel your child with special needs has less of a need for orthodontic care?

Ashley had a dentist appointment this morning. The dentist is one she has seen for several years, and one who touts himself as a dentist for children with special needs. Until today, Dr. Karl had done an adequate job of caring for Ashley’s teeth even though his manner was a little brusque and rushed. But today things did not go so well. In fact, they went horribly wrong.


Ashley did not want to get into the chair to have her teeth cleaned by the assistant. But with some major ‘encouragement’ from both Amy and me, she eventually did agree and then put her head back and cooperated through the cleaning. When Dr. Karl came in, she became a bit more anxious. She didn’t want to cooperate with him, and for whatever reason, he seemed quite impatient. He spent all of thirty seconds looking at her teeth and declared she had no cavities. He then turned things back over to the assistant.

Before he left the room, I asked him about braces. I wanted a referral to an orthodontist that would take Ashley’s Medicaid insurance. He scoffed and said braces probably wouldn’t work. I agree that braces will be a challenge, but with the technical developments in recent years, I wanted to at least ask an orthodontist some questions.

Dr. Karl, however, said with a very definitive opinion that he didn’t think braces would be possible. I asked why. He said, “Well, you know, the tumors she has” referring to her three brain tumors. Then he said, “Does it really matter?” which I took to mean does it really matter if Ashley’s teeth were crooked. I stared in shocked silence as he walked out of the room.

How dare he assume that it not matter to Ashley if her teeth are pretty. How dare he assume that I should care less about the health and appearance of her teeth just because she has disabilities? I have absolutely no doubt that he wouldn’t even consider asking a 13 year old girl without disabilities if it really mattered.

I got angrier and angrier as I drove to work. I will be changing dentists for Ashley. I will be writing a letter to Dr. Karl and his partners to let them know exactly why I am leaving their practice. I sure the small amount of money he gets from Ashley will not make a difference, but I refuse to subsidize his discriminatory and insensitive attitude for one more minute.

And I will share this story with as many people as I possibly can.

Deborah can be found writing here at 5MFSN every Wednesday, and can also be found at Pipecleaner Dreams.

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