Thursday, March 22, 2012

Change the Face; Change the Child.

Change the Face, Change the Child

Sometimes, even dedicated professionals need reminders. About why they do what they do. About who it is they serve. Sometimes, those reminders come about in the most remarkable way. Here is one you might enjoy. . .

Dr. Ethan Larson came to dentistry by way of family. When he was very young, his father made the radical decision to pursue a new career; he applied to dental school. When Ethan was 9, his father, a new dentist, moved the family to the Pacific Northwest where he joined the U of W Ortho program.

Ethan spent those early years in Bothell, where he finished high school. He attended Covenant College, near Chattanooga, TN and graduated with a love of science and an eye for dental school. For the  next year, Ethan worked in his father’s orthodontic office. There, he did a little bit of everything, working with the software systems, in the lab, and the business office. Those months, spent in his father’s office, ignited Ethan’s passion for orthodontics.

But nothing in his schooling prepared him for the real life experience of the clinic. “Like all professions, orthodontics has its routine. But then, along comes something that really hits you, and you remember why it is that you do what you do.”

By way of explanation, Ethan offers this story:

“I remember a little girl who came to our office. Her overjet was so profound that we had to devise a series of treatments to move those front teeth back into their proper place. One appliance wasn’t going to be enough. We brought them about half way with a bionator, and then we had to build another bionator to move them the rest of the way. It was a slow, tedious process. But then one day I realized that a miracle had taken place in that little girl.

And it wasn’t about teeth. It was because of teeth.

When she first came to us, she was handicapped by her shyness. She’d been tormented at school, made fun of, called “fish face” by her peers. She wanted to be invisible, but her teeth made her the endless focus of all kinds of negative attention.

Then those teeth started to move, and she started to change. Bit by bit, I watched her blossom. Through the process of orthodontic treatment she came into her own. She became more outgoing. She smiled. She engaged with others. Like a butterfly, she emerged into a different child.

I live for those moments. As cheesy as it sounds, as hard to believe as it is, it’s true. Sometimes when you change the face, you change the child.”

It’s normal for parents to focus only on the cost and logistics of orthodontic treatment. But sometimes, even for the orthodontist, it’s good to remember the big picture. When kids feel confident about how they look, their lives begin to change in astounding ways. Now that's why I became an orthodontist.

Dr. Ethan Larson,
With Bette Nordberg


  1. This story really shows your heart, Dr Larson. I know I would much rather have a doctor or dentist providing care for me who truly cares about my health and me as a person and not just about making money. Thank you for sharing this story.

    It's so sad that in the world our outer appearance shapes the way people see us & the way people treat us. Unfortunately it leads many young kids spending so much time and effort in wanting to change everything about themselves. Your hard work & love helped the girl in the story begin to reveal who she really is- maybe for the first time in a long time.

  2. It is sad that media outlets, with models and photographs and reality shows have influenced kids (and many adults) to seek an unrealistic version of perfect. But think about cleft lip, birth deformity and horrible burn scars. These children long to be made "normal," to resemble the faces and bodies they see around them. I know a team that travels the world restoring cleft lip and palate. Did you know that children can have a psychotic episode during the time that they wait for grafting in a burn unit? How wonderful that science has given us the skills to make a difference in the most vulnerable among us!

  3. Oh yes, I wasn't even thinking of children born with deformity- their lives are truly changed by the work of doctors. Science is amazing!