A Genetic Flaw—by Jamie Levine
My daughter, Jayda, is just like me in so many ways. Aside from the fact that she looks exactly like me, she shares my strong-willed temperament, quirky sense of humor, outgoing personality, and my gift of gab. She also does things I used to do when I was a kid: She insists on wearing new clothes the day after buying them, has so many stuffed animals on her bed that there’s barely room for her to fit, and has a passion for pandas. However, unlike me, Jayda has horrible teeth. At barely six years old, she has six-going-on-seven fillings and one-going-on-two crowns.
Jayda’s first tooth came in rather late—well after she turned one. And the moment her teeth began popping out, I religiously brushed and flossed them. Jayda also swallowed fluoridated vitamins from the moment her pediatrician allowed her to—and still does. For further cavity-prevention, she uses a fluoride rinse every night, is not allowed to drink juice or sugary drinks except on special occasions, and is prohibited from eating chewy, sticky candy or chewing any gum that isn’t sugarless. So it’s not for my lack of trying to avoid them that Jayda is plagued by cavities.
When Jayda was four years old, and too young to tolerate nitrous oxide, she was put under anesthesia in the O.R. of a hospital in order to have three cavities filled; everything went well, but the experience broke my heart. And after numerous visits every year to our dental clinic, Jayda is now recognized by the entire staff the moment she walks in the door. Jayda’s not scared of going to the dentist: She now takes x-rays with ease, breathes in nitrous oxide easily, and complies with all of the dentists’ requests when she’s lying in their chairs. But I, on the other hand, am not pleased by the frequency of our visits, and am filled with anxiety at the start of each of Jayda’s dental check-ups. But I suspect there’s no way to avoid them.
I have fabulous teeth; I didn’t get my first cavity until I was in my teens, and aside from experiencing a bit of gum recession (and consequent gum grafting), I’ve had practically no problems with my teeth or mouth in my entire life. Yet, because of the way Jayda and I take care of her teeth and her diet, I have to blame my daughter’s dental problems on genetics; namely, my sperm donor. From where else could her propensity for cavities have come?
Sperm donors go through rigorous health checks, and supply extensive health histories to the banks at which they donate. But I’ve never seen any donor write about his dental history—and prior to witnessing Jayda’s problems, I would have never thought about wanting that information. Of course, in the grand scheme of things, having a daughter with a mouthful of cavities isn’t the worst thing in the world. Jayda is adorable, smart, funny, well-liked by her peers, and has a beautiful, healthy body. And I am forever indebted to my sperm donor for his contributions to everything that makes my daughter so wonderful. But if I had my way, I have to admit, I would have also liked for him to have donated healthy, cavity-free teeth to her!