I had to take Penelope to the dentist today. She is not even three yet!!! She had fallen on her face really hard a few days ago hitting her front teeth. When one front tooth started turning grey yesterday, I knew she needed to be seen. So I took her in this morning. She was excited until we walked into the examining room. She became very quiet and started to whimper and cling to me. I sat in the examining chair with her on my lap. She did better until they tried to xray her mouth. She was terrified! When the xray camera swung around to her face she was trembling and crying. I felt so sorry for her. But this is not really what I want to talk about today. The dentist told me she was going to have a grey tooth until it falls out naturally. Then she should be fine when her permanent ones come in.
Dentist: If the gray tooth bothers you, Penelope can have a root canal to make it white again. It is a baby root canal that cleans out the gray from inside and then the empty tooth is covered with a white veneer
Me: This would be purely cosmetic?
Dentist: Yes, it is not medically needed. It is only an option if it bothers you...
Of course, we will not be subjecting her to that especially since we know these are baby teeth.
Anyhow, this whole thing brought back to my mind a disturbing encounter I had with an overly image conscious mother when I was working in a children's portrait studio. She was beautiful- the mother. She had two daughters, very young toddlers. The youngest of the two was gorgeous, the eldest was just as lovely to me although she had some teeth problems. As I was setting up the appointment, the mom kept talking about her daughters teeth. They were crooked and protruded so much that her lips could not close over them when she closed her mouth completely.
Mom: It is just a shame... Is there anything you can do to Photoshop her teeth? Can you put a straight one there where this one is? Also will you whiten them?
Me: Well we will do a lot of touching up here for our clients, but I don't know that we could put another set of teeth in place of hers...
Mom: You know we tried to have braces put on her, but the dentist said she is too young. I can't wait until we can. She really would look a lot better if her teeth were fixed. It will not be much longer until we can take care of it.
Me: (No response)
Mom: Could you try to do something? I have gone to (I will not name them) and they had no problem lighting her and correcting the flaws. I mean I usually go to them because they are the best in town... I am the kind of person who has paid thousands for portraits because I really value that sort of thing. I really want to have it look very artsy...It's just such a shame...
Me: (acknowledge her words with something generic)
.....and so on and so on and so on...this went on for an hour IN FRONT OF HER TWO GIRLS!
After the shoot she left me wondering how on earth I would be able to please her. My employer said I needed to call her and tell her we could not alter her appearance so much that she was not recognizable. I knew that, but I didn't really want to tell her that. We decided to say, "I really don't think you will be happy with changing her portraits that way. Something will not feel right and we truly believe it will be disturbing to you in the end."
After another visit from both mom and dad, we all finally agreed to clone her lips so that her lips are closed over the teeth. It did not feel right at all to do so! Her daughter was going to see that portrait and know that mommy had changed it to look different from what it really was. What message was that sending about being ok with yourself? It is bad enough when things like that come from people who are not related to you, but when it comes from your own mom?
What really bothered me the most was when dad was looking at the proofs and said, "Look at......(younger daughter) she is just a natural... No dark discolorations under her eyes, her hair is thick and smooth, her teeth are perfect...
Eldest girl had bluish skin under her eyes which is actually very common in small children as the skin is so delicate there that you can often see through it. She also had hair that was a bit wild and whimsical.
When the mother came to pick them up she hated the portraits and refused to purchase them. She said she had gotten some cheap ones done somewhere else.
Well, I guess I am writing about this because I will not be giving my baby a root canal just because the "gray color was bothersome to me". She is still beautiful to me!!