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Dentures: A new lease on life

Updated on May 18, 2016
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My early childhood

I was taught to brush my teeth, use mouth rinse and to floss at a very young age. My mom was very adamant about oral hygiene. She taught me about bad breath, and started my dental visits when I was six years old.

That very first trip to the dentist marked the beginning of living with bad teeth and gums. It didn't matter how many times a day I brushed and flossed, every dentist visit resulted in a cavity being fixed or a tooth being capped. I developed dental anxiety very early on and I never got over it.

I became obsessed with brushing and flossing and chewing sugar free gum. I took a travel toothbrush and toothpaste to school every day and used them after lunch. I was made fun of and considered "prissy" in grade school because of this. I didn't care, I wanted perfect teeth so the dentist would stop torturing me.

The reality was that my dentist was not torturing me, I had bad teeth from the start. Some teeth were crooked, some grew in the very back of my mouth and in total, I had more teeth than I was supposed to. My dentist was simply trying to fix my teeth.

Unfortunately, in those days, mercury was used in dental fillings and my baby teeth rotted away and most of my adult teeth were weakened before they ever broke the gum surface. I lost my first four adult teeth when I was fourteen years old. I received implants to replace them.

Discouraged teen years

I continued obsessively brushing, flossing and worrying about my teeth. Smiling was not something I did very often as a teen. I lost a lot of self confidence and felt very awkward. It was not yet visible to other people that I had bad teeth at this point. I continued seeing a dentist regularly.

I experienced my first abscessed tooth when I was fifteen. The tooth was removed and a root canal was performed. In time, my teeth grew together and filled the gap, you couldn't tell I was missing a tooth at all. I had more and more abscesses and more dental work done. I needed braces to straighten my teeth, but could not have them because my teeth were too weak.

By the time I graduated high school, I had many broken teeth in the back of my mouth. It seemed like all those years of horrifying and painful dental visits were pointless. My teeth were falling apart and nothing helped.

Adult with no help

Shortly before getting married at age 22, I chipped my right front tooth. This was emotionally devastating to me because for the first time my bad teeth were becoming obvious. I could not afford to have the tooth fixed and therefore did not smile in the wedding photos.

For the the next decade I had to endure abscesses and my teeth constantly chipping and breaking. For those of you that do not know what an abscess is, it is an infection of a tooth and/or gums. The swelling was unreal and the pain was so severe at times that I couldn't eat, drink or sleep. I consumed ibuprofen like it was a life sustaining force.

I could not afford to have these abscesses taken care of very often. We made too much money to qualify for any assistance, but not enough to afford the dental work. By the time I was thirty-five, I had lost the majority of my teeth and looked as though I were an old woman. I couldn't eat very well and talking was not something I enjoyed doing very often. My self-esteem was non-existent.

I had resolved myself to the fact that I would never go back to the dentist again, unless I was going to get dentures. At that point, dentures were merely a pipe dream.

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The pain is finally over

At thirty-eight, my husband and I separated and I moved back to my hometown. It took me almost a year to gather the courage to apply for state assistance for dental work. I was immediately approved and found a local dentist.

After examining my mouth and the ex-rays, I was considered to be an emergency case and was approved for extraction of my remaining fourteen "teeth" and a full set of dentures. I went home and cried.

The extractions and healing times took six months. Not once during that time did anyone in that dental office look down their nose at me nor treat me like a second class citizen. Unfortunately, in the past, that was not the case in other dental offices. For the first time in a very, very long time I felt better about myself.

The extractions were shockingly easy and quick. Most appointments took only twenty minutes. Of course, my mouth and gums were numbed, but when you have dental anxiety, that doesn't usually matter. This time was different for me. I had very little anxiety and no problems at all going back each time. After four appointments, those nasty broken things were gone. After thirty plus years, I was pain free at last.

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Smile, it makes people wonder

I have had my new teeth for about seven months now. I absolutely love them! I can chew food. Big deal, right? Yes, it is a huge deal for me. I haven't had the luxury of chewing food in over ten years. Yes, chewing is a luxury, one that no one appreciates until they can't do it. Mashing soft foods to the roof of your mouth with your tongue allows you to eat, but it is certainly not chewing.

I eat just about anything I want now. I'm not afraid to eat in public any more and that is a new adventure in itself. I can bite into food, instead of tearing it into tiny pieces, what a novelty! I haven't eaten a hamburger like a normal person in twenty years. I wish I was being over dramatic, but I'm not.

Another thing I do these days is smile, I mean really smile. I'm so used to doing the tight lipped smile that it feels so strange to have my lips parted. I'm not afraid to talk to people any more. I no longer have chronic bad breath because I can use mouthwash and breath mints and they actually work.

Oh, don't get me wrong, there are adjustments I've had to make since getting dentures. I had to learn how to talk properly again, for one thing. When you are missing teeth, you sound different, so you have to adjust so people can understand you. Now I can pronounce words correctly, and that sounds funny to me.

Another adjustment I'm still learning to accept is my appearance. I don't mind looking in the mirror now, before, yeah...didn't happen much. It isn't so much of a vanity thing as it is a pride thing. I'm proud of my new teeth! So, I smile and happily show them off.

Life begins at 40

I am very happy adjusting to my new teeth. I'm 40 years old and feel like my life is just beginning. I don't care if people know I have fake teeth. Anyone who knows me well, already knows about my situation. It's not like I could hide the missing teeth from them.

I hold my head high and smile because I know what I have been through to get to where I am now. I will always wish I could have saved my natural teeth all those years ago, but it just didn't happen. I would advise all of my readers to take the very best care of their teeth and gums. Visit a dentist regularly and take care of problems as soon as possible.

Dentures are the option that worked best for me. I know there are other options such as implants and those are wonderful for folks that choose them. As for myself, the four I received as a teen all fell out over the course of twenty years. They were not a permanent solution for me. I have nothing against implants, they look great and are functional.

To sum up my story, life is a whole lot more enjoyable now that I do not have to hide from the world.

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    • Tammy Cramblett profile image
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      Tammy Cramblett 15 months ago from United States

      Hi Gregory, thank you for your question. From what I've been told, over brushing can actually damage the enamel on teeth. The enamel is what makes teeth strong and once that becomes damaged, teeth get weak and are more susceptible to cavities. In my case it was a combination of over brushing and being sick a lot as a young child.

    • Gregory Vic profile image

      Greg de la Cruz 15 months ago

      I always found myself as an under-brusher. Just how harmful can overbrushing be?