Dentures at a Young Age
Hi, I'm Young and I Have Dentures
Most people with dentures get them later in life. I'm sure you've seen Grandma or Grandpa putting their teeth in a glass of water at night. It's a common thing to associate false teeth with the elderly, but that's not always the case.
Me? I'm 25, and only 6 of the teeth in my mouth are my own now. Last year, I had 26 extractions and was fitted with immediate dentures. I've created this lens to share my story, and also to hopefully help and encourage anybody who may be going through what I went through, or something similar.
Getting dentures is a scary process. Saying goodbye to your own teeth, knowing that you'll never have them again is hard, no matter how bad they may be. It gets better, though. I can tell you that first hand. Barely two months after my procedure, and I'm happier than I've ever been in my life.
I've always had problems with my teeth, ever since I was a little kid. A lot of it was my own fault... When I was a child, I did all I could to avoid brushing my teeth, simply because I didn't like it. As I grew older and started to realise how important oral hygiene was, I started to take more care of them, but it still wasn't enough.
When I reached my late teens, I went through a bout of severe depression where I neglected all personal hygiene completely. I didn't even want to get out of bed in the morning. As a result, the health of my teeth suffered and, due to past bad experiences, I didn't go to the dentist for years. Add to this the fact that some kind of gum disease runs in my family, and both my mother and grandmother had full dentures before they were 40 years old, and it wasn't looking great for me.
Eventually my teeth went past the point of no return and I knew they couldn't be saved. It started to affect my daily life. I became depressed again, simply because I was so embarrassed. My teeth were ruining my life. Sometimes it got so bad that I actually contemplated suicide.
I didn't smile anymore - at least, not with my teeth showing! I was self conscious when talking to people and often looked away. I'd cover my mouth while laughing, and always look at other people's teeth, wishing that I could smile genuinely like they did and not have to hide.
I'd look back at old pictures of myself and it would make things worse. I used to have a nice smile. I was happy, confident and outgoing, but all of that had been ripped away from me.
I went to see a cosmetic dentist in August of last year to get a consultation. I didn't tell anybody that I was going, but he confirmed that most of my teeth needed extracting and only 6 of them were worth keeping. The problem? The cost would be Â£11,000 per jaw. There was no WAY I could afford that. When I got home, I told my Dad where I'd really been (I told him I was covering a shift for somebody at work) and I told him I'd have to look for a dentist on the NHS (British health care), or a cheaper, private one.
Then fear overtook me again, and I left it for months. By December, I was suffering from unbearable toothaches and repeated abscesses. It took me until February to do anything about it. I registered with a local dentist, and it's the best decision I have ever made.
Are you worried?
Do you worry about needing dentures in the future?
Things moved FAST!
From registering with the dentist (my first appointment was February 8th), things moved very, VERY quickly, and I'm grateful, because it gave me no time to change my mind and continue to suffer and be unhappy. My dentist recommended that I had the extractions done at the hospital, because it would work out a lot cheaper.
In England, we're fortunate enough to have the National Health Service, so undergoing surgery wouldn't cost me anything. If I had the extractions done at the dentist, it would have been Â£95 per tooth, putting the cost of the total procedure at over Â£2000. Having the extractions done at the hospital left the cost at Â£800 - the cost of the dentures.
I met with a consultant at the hospital and was given the option of having just Novocaine (the usual dental anaesthetic), local anaesthetic (I'd be awake, but completely numb) or a general anaesthetic (totally out, and no idea of what was happening). Because I was such a nervous dental patient, I opted for the general. I was having 26 teeth taken out - I didn't want to be awake while they did that to me.
My surgery was scheduled for the 16th June - 5 days before I was due to fly to America. The doctors advised against my trip being so soon, but there was no way I wasn't having the op, so I went ahead with it.
I had my impressions made at the dentist a couple of weeks before the surgery, so that my teeth would be ready to be put in on the day. I'd specifically said I wanted immediate dentures, because there was no way I was walking around for months with just six teeth! The impressions weren't very pleasant, but they weren't completely horrible either.
I'd never had surgery before, so I was a little nervous... but more excited than anything. I was told to be at the hospital by 8am, but they didn't know what time I'd be going down for the operation. I could be first on the list, or last. They wouldn't know until the day. I ended up being taken down at around midday.
The surgeon told me he was going to give me something to relax me, but that I seemed relaxed enough already. The nurse then talked to me to keep me distracted - asked me about my favourite bands and what I liked to do. I remember talking about Avenged Sevenfold, rambling on about Fozzy and Rich Ward and the next thing I know I'm back on the ward with gauzes stuffed in my mouth. It was WONDERFUL. I didn't feel a thing. I don't even remember waking up in the recovery room!
There was quite a lot of bleeding so they kept me a little longer than planned, and even talked about transferring me to a bigger hospital in Manchester to stay the night (this hospital didn't have an overnight ward for oral patients), but - luckily - I was able to go home that evening. My Dad picked me up around 6, and I went home with my new teeth already in my mouth. I was smiling already.
I was extremely lucky with my recovery, and many people have told me that. It's not so easy for everybody.
I was incredibly fortunate when it came to my recovery. I'd heard from many sources that the first couple of weeks would be miserable and painful, but I barely had any pain at all. The hospital had prescribed me some strong painkillers (Co-Codamol 30/500) and some Ibuprofen (400mg) and they worked wonders. I feared that I'd have some problems on the flight over to America. I was worried that the altitude would put too much pressure on my gums and my stitches would burst or something... but nothing happened. I wasn't in any pain, there was no bleeding. I was completely fine.
My main worry was eating. I thought that it would be difficult to actually find something I could eat while I was in the States, but before I even went I was eating chicken nuggets from McDonalds! After 3 days with my new dentures, I was chewing foods already. It was uncomfortable and weird, and I had to cut my food up into tiny pieces, but I soon got the hang of it. I felt sorry for my dad, who had stocked up on soups, noodles, ice creams and other soft foods for me, because we'd both expected that I wouldn't be able to eat properly for weeks.
Speaking wasn't much of a problem, either. I heard horror stories, like you do with anything, so I was a little scared about what my speech would be like, but after a few days I was over the initial lisp and getting used to this piece of plastic in my mouth.
I went to see my dentist not long after for my first check-up since the procedure, and he was incredibly impressed with my progress. He said that my gums were healing very nicely and it may only be a couple of months before I need my permanent dentures. Originally, he'd told me that within 6-8 months I could expect my immediates to be loose, because my gums are still shrinking, and a brand new set of teeth will have to be made. The time was later reduced to less than four (he booked me in for a second appointment in early October) because of how quickly I have healed up.
The picture at the top of this lens was taken just a few days after my surgery. I couldn't believe how easy and quickly the recovery process went for me.
This isn't the same for everybody. I've been extremely lucky, but it's proof that getting dentures doesn't have to be completely horrible. My experience has been relatively pain free, apart from a couple of bad days, and happy. I didn't do anything out of the ordinary. I just did what they told me - rinsed my mouth with warm sea-salt water, took the medication to relieve pain and swelling, and regularly cleaned my dentures.
Living with Dentures
Life with dentures isn't as scary and difficult as I'd imagined it to be. In fact, it's quite the opposite. I'm much happier in myself than I was before. I'm smiling without feeling self-conscious, I got my confidence back - and my cheeks! A lot of people have commented on how great I look now and how much happier I seem to be, and they're right. Looking back at pictures before I had my dentures, I realise how gaunt and sunken my face had become. It's much fuller again, now, and I look healthier overall.
I've had to change my diet a little bit. I can't eat anything too sticky or chewy, but other than that, not a lot has changed. I still enjoy most of the meals I did before, and even more! I can eat things like chocolate and ice cream without my teeth giving me excruciating pain. As a young woman, it feels incredible!
A lot of people may think that dealing with dentures is easy because you don't have to brush your teeth or anything anymore. This is completely false. If anything, my oral hygiene is more difficult to keep up than it was before! It's broken into two parts, because I have to keep my dentures clean, as well as brushing my remaining teeth gums, tongue and the roof of my mouth. It takes longer than it used to, and I have to use several different toothbrushes, but I don't mind it. It's much better than living with my teeth with the state that they were in.
Now and again I'll get a sore spot on my gum because of the pressure of the denture and my gums still shrinking and adjusting, but it's a hundred times better than living with toothache, and with the correct care, they go away after a couple of days.
Help and Support
You are not alone.
I couldn't have made this journey all by myself. While my family and close friends were supportive, they didn't know what I was going through. Even though I really wasn't, I felt completely alone. They were there for me, but they didn't know what it was like to live with teeth that ruined your life, and they didn't know what it was like to have to go through something so traumatic and permanent at such a young age.
When it came to time to bite the bullet (not literally, because I couldn't bite anything!), I searched online and came across a support group for people with dentures, and people who are in the process of getting them. This community was a Godsend to me. I realised that I wasn't alone. There are many people my age, and even younger, going through what I was going through. I was too embarrassed to talk to my family and friends about it, so I turned to the lovely people of Dentures: A New Smile.
I told my story and received an overwhelming response from people with advice, similar stories, sympathy and understanding. Never before have a group of strangers been so influential in my life. If you are going through the process of getting dentures, or just thinking about it, I urge you to check out this group. There are people there of all ages, races and backgrounds to support you and help you in your journey to a healthier and happier you. I honestly don't think I'd have gone through with the procedure if I hadn't found this beautiful little corner of the Internet. I dread to think what I'd be like now without the wonderful people there.
Update - 5 Months On
I now have my permanent dentures, a lot sooner than was initially thought. My immediates had been loose for a while, so after four months I went for my impressions to get the new, permanent teeth made. When I first went for surgery, we expected to have to get the new teeth done after 6-8 months, but my healing went so well that it took around half that!
The new teeth I have are a little longer than the other ones I had, and I love them already! I have to relearn to eat and speak with them again, because they feel different, but I'm sure it'll only take a couple of days and it's more than worth it.
I definitely have no regrets whatsoever about saying goodbye to most of my teeth. I have never been happier in myself than I am now.