Healthy Smiles By Rita Tempel, DDS – This column was published in the Gettysburg Times, December 20, 2018
It’s probably the only holiday song with a dental connection! The famous holiday tune, “All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth,” was written back in 1944 by teacher Donald Gardner. Today’s holiday-themed column is going to address the starring role our front teeth play in our lives—starting with the reason Gardner wrote this catchy tune.
“Gardner and his wife, Doris, were helping 22 second-graders in Smithtown, N.Y., compose a Christmas song. He asked them to complete the sentence, ‘All I want for Christmas is… ‘ and then began smiling as he heard 16 of them lisping wishes without the help of one or both front teeth. That night, in the space of 30 minutes, the 31-year-old music teacher composed the ditty that would bring him royalties until the end of his life.” This is what the LA Times wrote when Gardner passed away in 2004.
As a second grade teacher, Gardner realized that his students’ front teeth played a vital role in their lives. Most children lose their front teeth, usually one closely followed by the other, when they’re 6-8 years old. It typically takes several months until the new adult teeth erupt through the gums.
Without our front teeth, two of the biggest challenges are talking and eating. It’s difficult to bite into sandwiches and apples, for example. Front teeth are considered the central incisors—teeth that help us cut and tear our food.
I also want to touch on a more serious issue for a moment—accidents involving front teeth. I have seen a number of patients over the years who have suffered damage to their front teeth—usually as a result of one of two situations: a fall, or a sports-related injury.
In one of the most serious cases, a patient lost his front teeth due to a motorcycle injury. After going without front teeth for several months, he’s on a slow road to recovery with a temporary partial to replace his missing teeth—helping him regain speech and normal chewing habits as well as boosting his self-esteem. Another patient, a young girl, lost both of her teeth after slipping in the shower. Thankfully, I was able to re-implant both teeth successfully within an hour of her accident.
Premature loss of adult teeth in the adolescent and teen years consequently require years of attention by dental professionals since adolescents are still growing. Tooth loss affects patients’ faces and mouths.
When we smile, the front teeth are truly “front and center.” Cosmetically, working with a dentist to improve the shape, width, or length of your front teeth can dramatically boost your smile—as well as your self-confidence. However tragic or painful these accidents are, quality cosmetic dental work can alleviate patients’ health concerns and fears.
In closing, if your child is missing his/her front teeth this Christmas, you just might be celebrating another holiday—the Fourth of July—by the time his/her beautiful new adult teeth have grown in. As the song goes, “Gee, if I could only have my two front teeth… Then I could ‘with’ you a Merry Christmas!”
Two more fun facts about Donald Gardner: He was a Pennsylvania native and a graduate of the West Chester University School of Music!
Dr. Rita Tempel is the owner and founder of Gettysburg Smiles, a cosmetic and family dental practice located at 2018 York Road (Route 30 East), Gettysburg. She is an Accreditation Candidate of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry and a member of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine. For more information, see GettysburgSmiles.com, follow Gettysburg Smiles on Facebook, or call 717-339-0033.