Little Miss waiting for train tracks

The Genetic Lottery

April 3, 2013 by Michelle

When you have children, you wonder before they’re born who they’ll take after.  Will they have mom’s blue eyes?  Dad’s dark hair?  Dad’s dimple?  Even after they’re born, you continue to watch and wonder what traits they’ve inherited.  Will they be good at math?  Who’s athletic (in)ability will they inherit?  Will they be left or right handed?

And in my case, my husband and I want to know whose teeth the wee ones got.

As they passed their third, fourth, fifth, and more birthdays, we heaved a small sigh of relief.  It was possible that they inherited my teeth (no cavities to day, knock on wood) rather than my husband’s teeth (cavities in baby teeth on up).  Maybe they wouldn’t have to go through the torture he did as a child and adult, getting filling after filling after filling.  We’re still crossing our fingers, but there’s no news on that front to date.

When we went to the dentist last month, he even told us that is it possible that Mister Man might be able to avoid the “b” word – which I refuse to say for fear of jinxing it – but that’s how many thousands of dollars saved for us?  And how much time and pain for him?  I did a silent happy dance after that announcement before the dentist started Little Miss’s cleaning.

And then he turned to me.  That’s never a good sign.

“So we’ll need to start putting together a plan for her missing teeth,” he said calmly, like he’d just ordered a hamburger at a restaurant.

I gaped at him, open-mouthed.  “Her uhhh what?” I managed.

“When we took her X-rays last August (ahem, when my husband took her), we saw that her six year molars haven’t developed on top.  The bottom ones have come in, and I can see now that without the opposing force of those molars on the top, her bottom molars are continuing to come in and grow past her other teeth,” he explained as if I’d heard this before.

“Wait.  Back up a second.  She’s missing her six year molars?” I squeaked, the guilt of wishing for my teeth starting to wash over me.

“Well, yes.  Plus three of her four twelve year molars, too, but that’s less of an issue right now,” he nodded knowingly.

“Ummm so how about her wisdom teeth at least?  Is she missing those?  Because if you’re going to be missing adult teeth, those are the ones to have not form,” I tried to joke, knowing that of my five and a half missing teeth, four were wisdom teeth thankfully.

He shook his head. “It’s too early to tell.  She’s only seven, so they wouldn’t have formed yet to be visible in the X-ray anyway.”

“Oh.  I’m guessing this is genetic, huh?” I sighed.

He looked at me with his eyebrows raised.  “Oh, well, yes.  I don’t tend to see this many teeth not form super often.  Do you have a family history of missing permanent teeth?”

“Yeah, that’d be me.  I’m missing five and a half – the two upper canines and my wisdom teeth never formed,” I explained reluctantly.

“Well, she’s missing at least the five molars we talked about, plus this adult tooth all the way in the back here.  You can see where there’s nothing below her baby tooth.  We won’t worry about that for right now though,” he pointed at the X-ray where I could all to easily see gum in many places with no tooth waiting to erupt.

“So that’s good news at least, right?  It isn’t like her teeth have shifted where you’ll have to pull the baby teeth and use braces to put the adult teeth in the right place.  Right?” I begged, hopefully.

“Well, we’re going to have to put ‘train tracks’ on her two six year molars to keep them from erupting further, as one is already taller than the rest of her teeth.  When her twelve year molar comes in on one side, she should be ok, but on the other side, we’ll have to keep the train tracks on until she’s 18 or 20 and her mouth has finished growing so we can put an implant in there,” he explained, as dollar signs flashed through my head.


“Let’s make sure we make the appointment to put train tracks on her before you leave.  It’s just a piece of wire on each side of the molars that is glued to the tooth next to it so that it doesn’t keep coming in.  They look sort of like train tracks, which is why we call them that.”

I nodded, numbly, still hoping that if Little Miss is going to have this fun dental work required that at least she won’t have wisdom teeth that will have to come out one day.  And I made the appointment for her train tracks.  Last Monday, she went in to have them installed.

Little Miss waiting for train tracksI was pretty proud of her.  During the installation of the four train tracks – where her mouth was held open by a huge reverse vice that made her look like a monkey – she was patient and calm and held still as best she could. I know it wasn’t fun or easy for her, and the hand of mine she kept squeezing to deal with it told me the truth.  But she got through it like a champ.

I confirmed with the dentist that there were no real restrictions, nothing she couldn’t eat or drink or do – other than chew on ice, which she doesn’t do anyway.  He assured me that they should hold for her until she’s twelve but to call him if anything happened in the meantime.  And $800 plus later, we walked out, Little Miss with her first – and hopefully last – introduction to wire in her mouth.

Little Miss's train tracks for her molarOn Saturday – five days after we had the train tracks put on – I picked her up from a playdate.  “Mom!” she shouted.  “You’ll never guess what happened!”

I smiled at her, certain she was going to tell me all about some awesome creature she’d spotted while on a bike trail ride with her friend and his family.  “What happened?” I asked, innocently.

“My train track fell out!” she announced, somewhat too proudly.

“Uhhh, what?” I gaped at her this time, instead of the dentist.

“While we were playing, my train track fell out.  I put it in my pocket and -” she reached around, searching for the piece of wire to give me. “Uh-oh.  It isn’t here anymore.”

And thus, we have another appointment to go back to the dentist to have the train track reapplied.  I’m hoping that not having the wire won’t be a huge deal since he’d likely have to reform it to her mouth anyway.  And I’m hoping there’s some sort of warranty on the train tracks because if she has to wear one set for another five years and the other set for another thirteen years, we’ll be paying for this dentist’s villa in Italy otherwise.

Hold me.




  • Pat

    Oh Michelle, I am so sorry to hear about the missing teeth and the dental expenses now and in the future. We feel very fortunate because our kids never needed braces. I certainly hope her train tracks stay on for the next 5 years.

  • Practical Mama

    Oy! I feel the pain as an individual who has paid so many dentists’ villas all along the Mediterranean coast. This is the first time I’ve heard about missing adult teeth. I hope they come out eventually. And I hope those train tracks themselves as well as the installation is not painful for her.

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