What do Owen and Charlize Theron have in Common?

Besides being really, really, really ridiculously good looking [in my best  Derek Zoolander voice], Owen and Charlize Theron have something in common.

Any guesses?

If you guessed discolored teeth from severe hyperbilirubin (Jaundice), you know way too much about Charlize Theron.

I make light of it, and it’s not life or death, but in all honesty, I’m pretty bummed for Owen.  His teeth have finally started to erupt and they are really discolored.  The good news is, what we can see so far is not the neon green that I’ve heard can happen – but they also aren’t even close to white.  Use a magnifying glass to see his bottom two teeth below.  They are harder to see because they are a similar tone as his gums.

If I had to best describe the color, it looks a lot like the skin and the whites of the eyes of a severely jaundice person.  Here’s a picture of Owen when his jaundice was especially bad.

Owen in July 2011

Apparently Charlize Theron had the same disorder with her teeth due to Jaundice.  Earlier this year she told British newspaper The Sun that she had no teeth until she was 11 years old because her baby teeth had to be cut out due to damage from Jaundice and antibiotics.

Now, before anyone has a heart attack (grandparents!), I really don’t expect that they will cut Owen’s teeth out.  Honestly, I still have a TON of questions and plan to get him into a pediatric dentist very soon.  I have heard things “on the street”  but until I hear it from a professional, I’m not going to speculate.  For example, I don’t know what, if anything can be done to primary teeth for this type of discoloration.  I also don’t know what impact this discoloration may have on his adult teeth.

However, since you all will start noticing in his pictures and because Owen is not the only preemie with discolored teeth, I wanted to talk about what we do know.

Why are Owen’s teeth discolored?  A dentist will need to determine the exact cause, however, some degree of discolored teeth is common in preemies.  Most often it’s due to the life saving medications they received while in the NICU.  Some children, like, Owen also have the added complication of extreme jaundice for an extended period of time.

What caused Owen’s Jaundice?  Owen developed a condition called Cholestasis of the Liver due to Total Parenatal Nutrition (TPN).  I know, that statement doesn’t help you does it?  Ahhh, the things I have learned over these last 16 months.  Here’s the break down in mom words (“mom words” means, I may not have all the medical language exactly correct, but I should help you understand the gist of it and I also provide links so you can look up more for yourself)

  • TPN is the nutrition that is given to babies who are not able to take in nutrition from food.  TPN is given intravenously and provides the basic nutrition including fats, sugars, protein and vitamin.
  • TPN is an essential life saving tool for the extremely premature, however, it’s intended to be used for weeks and often as a supplement to breast milk as a baby is working their way up to full feeds.
  • Too much time on TPN can cause liver damage called Cholestasis which causes jaundice.
  • This is a different type of jaundice than newborn jaundice and it cannot be helped with bilirubin lights.  The only way to fix this type of jaundice is to start giving food nutrition and stop using TPN.
  • When Owen’s intestine perforated, the damage was very high up in the intestines and so he could not absorb much, if any, nutrition through what little was working. Therefore he was on TPN from the time he was born in April until he was up to full feeds in late July/early August.  He had already developed severe jaundice by early-mid June.
  • So, essentially, his body was filled with a bunch of yellow waste for at least a couple of months and that did damage like; staining his skin, eyes and, now we know, his teeth.

At the end of the day, I’m not really surprised that Owen’s teeth are this discolored.  But I don’t like it for him.  To me, it’s a little bit of insult to injury – he has so much to overcome, can’t he at least have teeth like his peers?  Yes, there are bigger battles in the world, but it’s still going to be a challenge he will have to overcome and as a parent, I can’t discount the fact that Owen will notice this difference.  I also have to prepare to help him to not let it impact his self-esteem.

In that concern, I was happy to have learned that someone, like Charlize Theron, had the same struggles because I think she’ll be a good example of a child who was “devastated” but was, also, able to get past it and build a very successful career on her talents…and looks.

I’d love to hear from any other families who have dealt with discolored teeth due to TPN and/or neonatal medications.


© Copyright Tatum, All rights Reserved. Written For: Ain't No Roller Coaster

6 thoughts on “What do Owen and Charlize Theron have in Common?

  1. I too suffer from discolored teeth – not from jaundice but from too much fluoride when I was a kid. There was fluoride in our water, and the doctor, unaware of this, prescribed vitamins with fluoride in them for my brother and I to take. As a teen, this bothered me. As an adult, I’ve tried several whitening techniques that usually don’t work out so well. I’ve finally accepted. Hopefully, this will have no effect on Owen’s grown up teeth. . .

    On the other hand, Kayla had a TON of ear infections as an infant/toddler so took a ton of antibiotics before her doctor finally referred us to an ENT for tubes. She still has problems with her teeth – she went to the dentist today and had three MORE cavities on top of the eight she had filled last year.

    I’m sorry this is one more thing you have to deal with – but at least Owen is in good company. Charlize and I are pretty awesome!

    • You’re right, I will definitely refine Owen’s list of good company to include you 🙂 Thanks for sharing your story Jennifer. You’re point is also a good one that the issues many of this blogs readers face, aren’t just preemie issues. I hope to see you this fall.

  2. Drew’s teeth are very yellow too. It was tough seeing the first ones erupt actually. One of those proud parent moments, first teeth! Parents don’t actually have any control over this, but we get excited for our babies, but I was quite sad when seeing Drew’s first teeth as well. His pediatric dentist told us that hopefully his permanent teeth won’t be affected because they don’t start growing until about 36 weeks gestation. AND, most of the offending drugs that contributed to the discoloration (we think) were before this point in his life. HOWEVER, Drew also had prolonged hyperbilirubinemia from TPN needs that went past discharge from the NICU, WAY past 36 weeks. SO, we will see I guess.

    I know it is just teeth, but to be frank, it is one more thing that visually makes him “different” from his peers and mean kids are one of my husband and my big worries for Drew. The good news is that socially he is so stellar and outgoing. Hopefully his peers will be able to see DREW and not focus on external differences which is what real friendship is all about anyway.

    I loved seeing Owen’s PT video! What a rock star!!

    • In your story about Drew, you speak my worries for Owen very well. I can’t wait to meet Drew and for Owen to have him as a role model of another rock star overcoming big challenges.

  3. My 24 weeker is now 7 and as I read this blog post I was reminded of what it was like when everything was still so new. Noah’s baby teeth came in a lovely shade of green, but I’m happy to report that the 4 adult teeth that he now has are all perfectly white. I was sad and worried about the green teeth, but really very few people have ever noticed. It’s not something people expect and it really hasn’t been that big of a deal. I wish you the best with that little guy. Raising a micro-preemie is quite the adventure!

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