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Ugly Ducklings

Today I saw a 7 year old young lady whose parents were concerned about her crooked front teeth. When I looked at her front teeth they did indeed look a bit haphazard. She was a first child so, naturally, her parents were worried that their beautiful, angelic daughter was morphing into something less attractive than somewhat.

I told them that what they were witnessing is, in fact, a normal part of dental development and is commonly referred to as the “ugly duckling” phase. My understanding of this is that it refers to a stage of a child’s growth where the new front teeth start coming through often what looks like the wrong place and often before the baby teeth have dropped out, thus giving the child 2 sets of teeth at the same time. It doesn’t look especially pretty, but as the child grows it usually sorts itself out without anyone doing anything.

Anyway, the parents listened to me saying the phrase “ugly duckling” with not even a glimmer of recognition. I realised that I was now beginning to show my age. Surely everyone has heard the Danny Kaye song of Hans Christian Anderson’s story of the ugly duckling? Or, failing that, Mike Reid’s dreadful version?

I resisted the urge to burst into song, much to my nurse, Philli’s relief, but it did make me wonder how many other things I wrongly assume people know.

By the way, I think it’s only ever first children whose parents get concerned about this stage. By the time they’re onto child number two, they’ve seen that it’s only temporary and nothing to worry about.