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From Stranger Things to Awareness: How Gaten Matarazzo (Toothless) Used His Fame For Cleidocranial Dysplasia

“There is always that one summer that will change you” and for sci-fi, 80s fans, that summer might have been in 2016 when American entertainment company Netflix aired the first season of Stranger Things.

It was nostalgic, familiar, and at the same time, terrifying. Stranger Things was triumphant in entrancing its viewers to uncertainty entwined to the touching drama of teenage love, friendship, and family.

Set in the small, imaginary town of Hawkins, Indiana, the eight-episode Netflix original series brought viewers back to 1983 where a boy named Will mysteriously vanished and where an unusual girl with strange powers suddenly came into the picture.

Dubbed as last summer’s breakout hit, the American sci-fi, horror web series took the internet “upside down,” created a cultural phenomenon, resurrected the 80s, and gave birth to a global following.

According to media company Symphony Advanced Media, the first season of the series is the third most-watched Netflix original series in 2016. Stranger Things drew 14.07 million audience aged 18 to 49 in its first 35 days. It also received an approval rating of 94 percent based on 69 reviews in review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes.

The series’ popularity did not wane down but continued to dominate the internet as its second season premiered on October 27 with 670, 416 unique mentions across social networking websites and blogs such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Tumblr, Reddit, among others.

Stranger Things season two’s number of mentions in the first 24 hours after its release was almost higher by 3,800 percent than season one. It was also ahead of the most recent premieres of Walking Dead, Empire, and Big Bang Theory. The second season also recorded a 15.8 viewership count within three days of its premiere.

Stranger Things and Cleidocranial Dysplasia

Aside from changing summer 2016 with its premiere, Stranger Things has also changed the landscape for cleidocranial dysplasia through the character of Dustin Henderson, one of Will’s friends.

Dustin, nicknamed Toothless, has cleidocranial dysplasia which is a genetic condition affecting bone (particularly the skull and collarbones) and teeth development. Actor Gaten Matarazzo, who portrays Dustin (Toothless) in the series, shares this trait with his character.

The 15-year-old New Jersey-born actor opened about his rare condition which only affects one in a million children globally.

In The Jonathan Ross Show, Matarazzo revealed that he does not have collarbones and teeth because of his CCD. “I do not have any. These are fake, right here,” he said, pointing to his dentures.

People with CCD do not lose their primary teeth at the expected time, and their adult teeth develop late. Another set of adult teeth can also grow in, causing misalignment and overcrowding.

The actor also shared how his character inspired people with CCD to come out of their shells little by little. Matarazzo has used his influence and popularity in raising awareness on the genetic condition through non-profit organization CCD Smiles which aims to provide dental treatment and fund research.

Cleidocranial dysplasia is passed down as an autosomal dominant trait wherein a person only need to acquire the abnormal gene from one parent to inherit the genetic condition. It can also be brought about by a random mutation. CCD is also congenital or present from before birth which affects both sexes.

Some indications of CCD include:

  • Stuck out jaw and brow area
  • Wide nasal bridge
  • Wide-set of eyes
  • Missing or abnormally-developed collarbones which push the shoulders together in front
  • Abnormal development of teeth
  • Delayed closure of the fontanelle or soft spot
  • Parietal bossing
  • Short forearms and fingers
  • Loose joints
  • Shorter height
  • Deafness
  • Small lower jaw
  • Narrow and high-arched palate
  • Narrow thorax
  • Short ribs
  • Increased bone fragility

Through physical exam, clinical and X-ray findings, CCD can be diagnosed. Prenatal diagnosis through ultrasound examination as early as 14 weeks can also be done. People with the genetic condition and their families can also consider genetic counseling with a geneticist and genetic counselor to confirm the diagnosis, discuss the history of the disease in the family, evaluate the risks, and discuss available options in the management of CCD.

The intelligence and life expectancy of a person with CCD is normal. However, people with CCD can also experience other changes in their bones including short, tapered fingers and broad thumbs, flat feet, and knocking knees. They also have a higher risk of developing osteoporosis, recurrent chest, sinus, and ear infections. Dental problems can also arise.

Although no specific treatment exists for the genetic condition, an oral surgeon and otologist can help in addressing dental problems and ear problems, respectively.

Dental treatments, which may include oral surgery, are done to improve the teeth’s appearance and enhance the chewing abilities of the individual with CCD.

With attentive and informed care, people with the genetic condition can lead fulfilling lives and save their friends from alien invasion like Dustin.

Looking for Gaten Matarazzo teeth photos? Go here.


References

  • A.D.A.M., Inc. (2012, February 2). Cleidocranial Dysostosis. Retrieved from New York Times Website: http://www.nytimes.com/health/guides/disease/cleidocranial-dysostosis/overview.html
  • Berg, M. (2017, October 30). The Scariest Part Of ‘Stranger Things 2’? Social Media Domination. Retrieved from Forbes Website: https://www.forbes.com/sites/maddieberg/2017/10/30/the-scariest-part-of-stranger-things-2-social-media-domination/#f2fd6fa0a35c
  • Cleidocranial Dysplasia. (2012, August 19). Retrieved from About Kids Health Website: http://www.aboutkidshealth.ca/En/HealthAZ/ConditionsandDiseases/GeneticDisorders/Pages/cleidocranial-dysplasia.aspx
  • Cruz, L. (2016, July 26). Where Stranger Things Loses Its Magic. Retrieved from The Atlantic Website: https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2016/07/stranger-things-netflix/491681/
  • Guno, N. V. (2017, October 30). ‘Stranger Things’ teen star Gaten Matarazzo makes donation for rare genetic disorder affecting bones, teeth. Retrieved from Inquirer Website: http://entertainment.inquirer.net/248327/stranger-things-teen-star-gaten-matarazzo-makes-donation-for-rare-genetic-disorder-affecting-bones-teeth
  • Holloway, D. (2016, August 25). ‘Stranger Things’ Ratings: Where Series Ranks Among Netflix’s Most Watched. Retrieved from Variety Website: http://variety.com/2016/tv/news/stranger-things-tv-ratings-netflix-most-watched-1201844081/
  • Khoo, I. (2016, September 28). Gaten Matarazzo Of ‘Stranger Things’ Talks About His Genetic Disorder. Retrieved from Huffington Post Website: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2016/09/28/gaten-matarazzo-disorder_n_12232838.html
  • What is CCD? (n.d.). Retrieved from CCD Smiles Website: https://ccdsmiles.org/what-is-ccd/
  • Featured image by Gage Skidmore

Disclaimer: The oral health information published on this web page is solely intended for educational purposes. Hawaii Family Dental strongly recommends to always consult licensed dentists or other qualified health care professionals for any questions concerning your oral health.

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