Bone grafts. Dental implants. Sinus lift. Crowns. Charlotte Smith has spent much of her life sitting in a dental chair. Affected by hypohidrotic ectodermal dysplasia (HED), half of her teeth didn’t develop, and the ones that did were misshapen.
The 22-year-old from London, England, is a dental nurse who works for an oral surgeon, and chose the profession due to ectodermal dysplasia. All those long hours of treatment led to her beautiful smile and inspired her career aspirations.
“Going to the dentist has been such a bane of my life. I wanted to turn that into something positive,” Charlotte said. “I want to work with kids. If I can change one person’s life, I can help.”
With no history of HED in her family, Charlotte continues to learn about her condition; she was diagnosed when she was four years old. She has not met another affected individual – yet.
MANAGING THE HEAT
She finds her inability to sweat to be her biggest challenge right now……..
“I’m very active and try to hide that I can’t sweat. But it’s hard. I overheat daily, and it’s worse having to wear PPE (personal protective equipment) at work. I get anxiety about it, and that can make it worse. It’s tough to pick out what to wear. I can be overheating on a daily basis. Some days, it feels like my head is going to explode.”
Once she has overheated, it can take 10 minutes or more for her body temperature to come back down. Fortunately, her work is very accommodating. Sometimes she sprays her face, and keeping her feet cool is a big help, especially during the summer when the humidity worsens.
It’s not just adapting to the heat that can be tough. Like many people with HED report, her body has more difficulty adapting when the weather gets colder.
FINDING HAIR OPTIONS THAT WORK
Wearing wigs can also turn up the heat for Charlotte. Since she was little, her hair has been thin. It grows to a certain length but then stops.
Growing up, she never considered wearing a wig. Fortunately, she never experienced any bullying for her sparse hair. At age 10, her hair started getting a little thicker and longer. When she got to college, she decided to try wearing wigs, but they were hot. So she began experimenting with different techniques for her hair……
“In college, my friends were getting hair extensions, so I started them. My hair would shed, and the extensions were always falling apart. A black friend suggested I try a weave. I tried it, and it was so nice! I used a weave in the summer. I could put my hair up, and it was a relief from the heat. I could wear it on holiday or at sea, and it wouldn’t come off. “
HAIR = CONFIDENCE
But, after a while, Charlotte needed a new option and looked into human hair wigs.
“I went to a good place where actors go to have a wig hand-made from human hair. I have two that I rotate. I spent a lot of money on them. I wear a shorter one for work and a longer one outside of work.”
She uses Ellen Wille human hair care kit for her wigs. Charlotte leaves the treatment on wet for 24 hours and then rinses it. She avoids washing her hair too much.
Charlotte says having hair gives her a lot of confidence…..
“I won’t go without it. If you feel insecure, try a wig. Some have clips all around, so it won’t come off. It depends on how it’s made. If you don’t want to wear a wig, you can dye your hair dark to help make it appear thicker. That’s a tip I learned.”
A BRIGHT FUTURE
Charlotte has dreams of making her own wigs someday. Being a sociable person, she loves being with her big group of friends.
Having ectodermal dysplasia has made her an adaptable person.
“I have to be adaptable to changes because it’s constant in my life. You develop a thick skin.”
Despite the issues that HED presents in her life, this young woman keeps a positive attitude.
“I don’t take for granted what I have. At my job, I see people who don’t have a full set of teeth. I’ve learned to be grateful for what you do have.”