I always hated my smile, even at a young age. I went to a small school that was pretty cliquey, so I did end up taking a lot of flack and getting made fun of quite often. To this day I remember the first really harsh verbal assault very clearly, which was in about 3rd or 4th grade when somebody called me "shit tooth." Since then, I've spent my life holding back smiles (I don't want to smile too much and show all the gum), and often times cover my hand with my mouth if I'm laughing, smiling, or talking. My teeth were bad from the start. Even my baby teeth. I had enamel deficiency that caused stains and dark brown spots on the 2 front teeth and my teeth were moderately-severely crowded with overlapping teeth and some teeth being pushed backwards behind others. I've always had these tiny little teeth, and a LOT of gum and bone, especially on top. I have an overbite/open bite, and my front teeth jet out (not sure of the measurement yet-- will get that later this week at my next orthodontist visit, but if I had to guess it's probably a good 6-8mm) over my bottom teeth. Even when I had my baby teeth, dentists were already telling my parents of all the dental woes I would have down the road, including the need to break and reset my jaw. Scary stuff for a kid, so I think hearing all of that from a dentist while I was young has contributed to my gnarly fear/anxiety when it comes to seeing a dentist. What I've come to find out now is those dentist were right-- my bones were already growing at different rates. My arches are way too small on top and bottom, and my upper jaw has way outgrown my bottom, which is why I show a ton of gum when I smile (see "before" pictures in this post), and my teeth overjet the bottom teeth.
I grew up without insurance. Braces were not an option for me. In fact, I had not seen a dentist since 1993 when I had a deep filling in my first molar.... well, and again in 2001 when I broke a tooth and needed a root canal (but they just did the RC and stuck temp putty in-- no crown, no cleaning, etc). Fast forward to thanksgiving 2009-- I am out of college, gainfully employed for 2 years with decent insurance, and I still had not seen a dentist. I think at this point I was, 1.) still scared to death and especially feared all the work that I knew needed to be done, and 2.) deeply embarrassed because I knew my mouth was in bad shape.... like, really bad shape-- my gums bled all the time, even during my sleep, my breath was bad, I knew I probably had cavities, and that tooth I had the root canal on was going on 9 years of temporary putty filling that kept me from chewing on that side of my mouth, and my back left molar (#19) had a subtle ache on it every now and then for years, which was accompanied by a pocket on the side of the gum that would become inflamed and filled with a liquid that drained. My bad tooth genetics and lack of seeing a dentist are not all to blame. I lacked good dental hygiene-- I rarely flossed and I never brushed my teeth at night. I, especially after becoming an adult, am completely to blame for all of that.
Thanksgiving weekend 2009 I broke a wisdom tooth while at work (the one next to #19 that ached on and off). I had never been in such excruciating pain in terms of a toothache. I couldn't function. Nothing had ever hurt me like that before. My boss gave me his dentists phone number, and since I was not a patient they had seen before, the best they could do was phone me antibiotics since it sounded like infection pain to them. Up until this point, I had never so badly wanted to get to a dentist office! ha! So, I get in and sure enough-- huge issues! It wasn't the wisdom tooth that was hurting me at all. It was the abscessed #19 molar in front of it! The wisdom tooth was in fact broken, and impacted (as was the other bottom one on the right), but the infection in 19 was so advanced there was no doubt that tooth was responsible for the pain. The infection ate into a lot of the bone between the roots and they weren't sure the tooth could be saved. All these years I had been walking around with infection in the tooth. No bueno!!
So, that started it all. Ever since then I've been in and out of dentists and specialists offices more times than anybody I know. This has already become a long story, but lets try and shorten it up with a quick run down to catch up to where I am today, which is finally at the orthodontic stage (yay!):
Dec 2009 (First time to a dentist in practically 15 years):
- Periodentisis (lots of 5-6mm pockets in the gums. Even an isolated 7mm here and there, particularly around the infected tooth) ; got the scaling/root planing and good cleaning.
- #19 back molar root canal and crown at the endodontist.
- Unbelievably I had ZERO cavities..... just all this other crap that was wrong.
- 2 impacted and 2 errupted wisdom teeth removed at the oral surgeon.
- 3 month recall cleanings.
- 2 fillings.
- Finally got a crown on upper right molar that had the root canal back in 2001! Since I hadn't chewed on it for a decade, it was still OK (thankfully!).
- New dentist puts me on 6 month recall cleanings.
- Periodontist gives me gigivectomy on top front teeth to make my teeth longer and smile less gummy. (see "after" photo below).
- Front overlapping teeth are reshaped and have bonding built on them to make teeth appear straight (this was a quick fix before my wedding that I now regret....more on that below).
- Upper right molar aches. Dentist says nothing wrong. Tooth abscesses (like, golfball growing out of my face kinda bad) while out of the country in Mexico on vacation. 2nd Root Canal needed.
- Bottom left molar #19 aches. Dentist catches the abscess this time, and only a month after the other 2nd root canal, I am back to the endodontist for another 2nd root canal retreatment. Tooth can not be saved.
Time for a new dentist I decided.......
- New dentist said I should have never been on 6 month recalls-- another scaling/root planing done (btw, if you're wondering, these REALLY suck!!!).
- 3 month cleaning recalls.
- Referral to orthodontist, but can not be started until oral surgeon extracts #19.
- 4 month recalls
- #19 extracted at oral surgeon
- Orthodontist consults
- Oral/maxiofacial surgeon consults for possible jaw surgery as suggested by ortho.
- Estimated date to have braces put on: March 19th!
The plan at this point is to get the braces on and go from there. I've had to do a lot of thinking about the jaw surgery. It is VERY invasive and is a major surgery that would put me in the hospital for a few days. I would be out of work for a few months, and there is a good chance I would never regain full feeling back in my lower chin/lip. It would be great since my bite would be fixed and everything more aligned (like, right now I can't even bite through a piece of lettuce in a sandwich. My front teeth sit about 1.5-2 teeth forward from where they should be sitting and my bite just sucks), but I just don't think it's worth the recovery time and all the risks and permanent damage associated with it. At this point, I want to see if they can close my bite even a little bit with elastics/braces, straight my teeth (which may require a few teeth to be removed if I am opting out of the jaw surgery that would widen my arches and make room for everything), and just have it good enough that I can keep everything clean easier. I accumulate plaque very easily (again....stupid genetics!), and it's near impossible to keep all the crevices clean between the overlapping and crooked teeth. I take decent care of my teeth (I have a sonicare, floss almost every day, and go for cleanings every 4 months) and if I can get to a point where I can keep up the care and be able to go for cleanings 6 months like everybody else, that would be AWESOME!
So, probably a two year sentence for the metal mouth....maybe a little more. I'll need a bone graft and implant done where they took #19 out, but they won't start that until they know how big of a hole I'll have left once my teeth are all shifted around by the braces. And then I have to look at a few vaneers up front since I had those teeth foolishly shaved down and bonding built on them for my quick fix (which was great at first, and it did improve my wedding photo's and overall confidence, but not worth it in the long run now that I am getting everything fixed). After everything is said and done, I'm probably going to have about $10-15K invested in my mouth-- and that's not even including the braces ,which luckily I only have a $500 copay on with my husbands super fantabulous insurance! So, take it from me, people-- take care of your chompers and you'll be able to hold on to your wallets!
I'll be keeping up with posting progress photos (since that is my favorite part of other people's blogs.... love seeing the transformation and the final before/after shots. amazing stuff!!), but to do that means I need some before shots. I guess I better get comfortable with letting all the readers all up in my grill. lol