A few Sunday nights ago, while sitting down to dinner, I received a frantic call from a mother of one of our patients. She was extremely panicked as Billy (a pediatric dentist’s favorite pseudonym for a boy patient) had just fallen and knocked out a front tooth. The source of her anxiety was that she didn’t know if the tooth he had just lost was a baby or permanent tooth. A quite upsetting scenario.
Billy was 7, and so in my mind, it was possible that he had lost a permanent tooth. This would have necessitated immediate re-implantation within 1 hour in order to ensure a favorable long term prognosis. However, if this were only a baby tooth, we could wait until the next day to see him. Dilemma time – drive in to the office or not?
A light bulb went off in my head. “Mrs. P, do you have a smartphone that can take pictures?” Silly question as like most parents of a 7 year old, she had an iPhone. I asked that she take a picture of her son’s mouth and of the tooth that had popped out, and text it to me.
Fortunately, Mrs. P is a good photographer and 5 minutes later, the following pictures popped up on my phone:
Any pediatric dentist (I hope) who is worth the many certificates and diplomas hanging on their walls, would have, like me, breathed a big sigh of relief. Based on his age, the fact that he had his lower permanent incisors growing in and the picture, this was clearly a baby central incisor. Billy’s fall had simply accelerated it’s inevitable loss. Mom was beyond relieved.
Out of an abundance of caution (in case the tooth in question was the World’s smallest permanent central incisor) I had Billy follow-up the next day, where an x-ray confirmed my smartphone diagnosis.
Sometimes technology is a good thing. Billy’s mom slept better knowing he had only lost a baby tooth. The tooth fairy paid Billy a visit. And I got to enjoy my Sunday dinner.