Contact: Amanda Mitchell
Tel: (703) 299-4614
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Old Town Dentist’s Creativity Aids in 15-Year-Old Girl’s Medical Puzzle
WASHINGTON, DC. – Brittany Leap of Haymarket, VA lived a normal life for a young girl; running, laughing, reading and playing, until things changed dramatically for her one February morning in 2006. Brittany, just 11 years old at the time, awoke unable to get out of bed, dress or feed herself. What was more puzzling, no one could answer, “Why?” It was clear to the family that her mental capacity was unaffected, but her loss of motor skills was baffling, inconsistent, and devastating.
After countless doctor visits, experts began to understand more of what was happening to Brittany. They diagnosed her with a rare neurological disorder called Neurodegeneration with Brain Iron Accumulation (NBIA). It affects only one in one million people, and is an inherited condition for which there is no cure.
NBIA left her tiny body a slave to uncontrollable muscle spasms, referred to as Idiopatic dystonia. These spasms made the last few activities she could still perform, like communicating through sign language, and eating ice cream increasingly difficult. Her spine became riddled with Scoliosis and she was soon confined to a wheelchair. In addition to her limited mobility, the NBIA caused a loss of control over her facial muscles. Violent oral spasms were causing her to mutilate her tongue and other tissues of the mouth. Doctors treated her with Botox injections in the jaw, but these proved less and less affective over time. Continued tissue mutilation and resulting fibrosis caused Brittany so much pain and discomfort that her team of doctors recommended an oral professional qualified and creative enough to asses Brittany’s complicated case. They urged that she visit Dr. Lawrence D. Singer, DMD, PC as soon as possible to get his direction on a treatment plan.
Dr. Singer is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery at The George Washington University Hospital and is responsible for oral reconstructive procedures and facial trauma cases in the Washington, DC and surrounding areas.
“The minute we met Dr. Singer, he was in the game with us,” said her mother, Sandy Leap. “He was committed to doing the best thing for Brittany, with the least amount of pain and discomfort.” The family told Dr. Singer that many other doctors recommended extracting all of Brittany’s teeth to solve her biting problem.
“When I heard this, I was shocked. Brittany’s teeth were healthy and I was not prepared to strip a 15 year old girl of her smile,” said Dr. Singer.
After detailed consultations and conversations with the family, Dr. Singer created a custom device that painlessly secured in the mouth and stopped her aggressive biting. Brittany told her family with the thumbs-up sign that she used to communicate the word, “yes,” that the device was working. Her pain was dramatically reduced and Dr. Singer had successfully avoided any additional pain for Brittany in the process.
Brittany’s appliance worked wonderfully for nearly two years, until recently, when she went through an unexpected growth spurt. With the changes in her body, are changes in her NBIA symptoms. The growth of her facial bones has dramatically affected her biting, and the device created by Dr. Singer is no longer bringing her the relief it used to. Doctors performed a host of new procedures to help Brittany, including a tracheotomy, which helps her to breathe easier, and the family visited again with Dr. Singer for more creative problem-solving to help stop her biting.
“Her condition continues to be a medical puzzle, but Dr. Singer is so flexible and thinks so far out of the box, we understand this is not a normal case to work with,” said Leap.
While Dr. Singer diligently works on a new solution to limit Brittany’s pain and discomfort, the family works to give Brittany the best life possible.
“It’s been a rough 5 years,” said Leap. “When we know she’s all there mentally, it forces us to keep fighting.”
Brittany continues to communicate through what her family calls, “Brittany Sign Language” or “BSL”. This is her modified version of sign language and allows her to be involved in conversations with family, friends, and even help make decisions about her own treatment.
“If she doesn't agree with a treatment option, we always help her understand. She still has a little attitude sometimes if she doesn’t like something,” said her mother. “What can you expect? She’s a teenager!”
About Dr. Singer and DC Smiles
DC Smiles is the comprehensive dental, oral health practice of Dr. Lawrence D. Singer, DMD, PC providing patient care from two locations; DC Smiles in Washington, DC and NOVA Smiles in Alexandria, VA. Patients visit DC Smiles for a wide range care; from general dentistry and routine care, to a full suite of oral reconstructive (dental implants, bone grafts) and cosmetic procedures. Dr. Singer earned his bachelor of science in human development from Vanderbilt University, and his doctor of medical dentistry (DMD) from the University of Pennsylvania, School of Dental Medicine. Dr. Singer holds the title of Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery at the George Washington University Hospital, where he is responsible for emergency facial trauma, and performs surgeries and procedures for special needs patients. For more information on DC Smiles, please contact Tonya Singer at firstname.lastname@example.org
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