Lovable nerd and chocolate pudding connoisseur Dustin Henderson is the glue of the Stranger Things crew, inspiring them to stick together when the going gets tough and the tough gets Demogorgon. In real life 13-year-old Gaten Matarazzo, who plays Dustin, is inspiring people as one of the few people on television who has cleidocranial dysplasia. Matarazzo’s own diagnosis prompted the Stranger Things creators to write it in as a part of his character’s identity.
Matarazzo told The Daily Beast:
“It’s a very rare condition and not many people have it around the world. When they wrote it into the show, I [started] getting a lot of messages and emails from people who have the condition, saying that it really helps them come out of their shells a little bit. . .They say that because this was in the show and this is the first time they’ve heard of it outside of the doctor’s office, it made them feel really good and it inspired them.”
Cleidocranial dysplasia (CCD) primarily affects the development of bones and teeth, while the severity of symptoms vary. People who have the condition typically are born with underdeveloped or absent collarbones. In a July interview with the Canadian Press, Matarazzo’s costar Finn Wolfhard (Mike Wheeler) said that Matarazzo was born without a collarbone, which affected the growth of his teeth. CCD can cause dental abnormalities like delayed loss of baby teeth, delayed appearance of adult teeth, and sometimes misalignment of the teeth and jaws.
On Stranger Things this earns Dustin the uncreative nickname “Toothless” from school bullies, which he simply doesn’t have time for.
Matarazzo — who can also sing like an angel — recently had surgery that pulled his teeth down. In the Canadian Press interview, Wolfhard remarks, “Now Gaten has perfectly pearly whites on the top.” Season 2 of Stranger Things will likely throw in an explanation for the change, but here’s hoping that it’s not excused away as some mystical result of puberty leading to newfound popularity. Dustin is already the coolest guy at Hawkins Middle School, toothless or not.