Aspen Dental Practice Owner Dr. Whitney Deitz of Owensboro, KY has set a worldwide record delivering the youngest set of dentures for her best friend Ashley Emmick’s three-year-old son, Weston Emmick.
Dr. Deitz and Ashley became fast friends six years ago when Ashley and her family moved in two doors down from Dr. Deitz in Owensboro, KY. A few years later, they had their children, Anna and Weston, around the same time in 2020.
Ashley was born with Hypohidrotic Ectodermal Dysplasia (HED), a gene characterized by several missing teeth (hypodontia) or teeth that are malformed. The teeth that are present erupt from the gums later than usual and are frequently small and pointed. Ashley and her husband began noticing abnormalities in their now middle child, Weston’s older sister, however HED tends to exhibit less traits in females. This prompted Ashley to request Weston be tested at birth, which is when she found out Weston had the HED gene. Ashley and her husband were devastated knowing he would face more challenges possessing the gene than his sister had.
Dr. Deitz was very familiar with HED, and it really hit home when someone close to her like Weston was diagnosed. “I promised Ashley, I would never let him go to school without teeth or feel embarrassed about his smile,” said Dr. Deitz. And this is where their journey began.
Nutrition and speech became a challenge for Weston when he was 18 months old – he had trouble eating certain solid foods and forming words. When Ashley noticed, Dr. Deitz knew it was time to prioritize getting Weston some teeth.
The two teamed up to perform their own review of the youngest denture cases nationwide. Dr. Deitz also worked with SVP of Implant Support Services, Dr. Sundeep Rawal, to get a sense of the long-term implant solutions and other necessary creative solutions available for Weston’s case. Ultimately, she found that most children with this gene have adult dentures, not dentures fitted for children. She partnered with her Lab Tech, Julie Bostwick, to create Weston’s set of dentures modeled after her own daughter’s teeth to make Weston’s dentures more realistic for his age. Not only did Weston receive a full set of dentures, but he became a Guinness Book record holder for youngest patient in the world with a full set of dentures!
Dr. Deitz continues to actively work with Eric Kukucka, VP of Clinical Removeable Prosthetics and Design Technologies, on a digital workflow as Weston gets older, to minimize the number of steps to create an impression and delivery process only, making the process more seamless and efficient.
Though the “standard” has been children with HED receiving dentures around five years old (generally children going into kindergarten), both Dr. Deitz and Ashely are working to change that standard to not only avoid delay in speech and hindered nutritional habits, but to also help children overcome social obstacles that come with having smiles that don’t quite match those of their peers.
This truly is what saying YES is all about – coming together to solve problems and change lives.