I know what I said about the pictures but… I lied.
This is a long one so you better get a fresh cup of coffee.
Many years back I was diagnosed with some form of gum disease. I was referred to a specialist as my oral condition deteriorated and as a result I made visits to said dentist every three months for a cleaning and check-up. I’m sure I don’t need to say that the specialist was not close by and to fit in these visits I needed to take a half a day off work to travel to and from their location, not to mention the hour I would sit in the chair while they ground away the plaque that was mass producing in my mouth. My whole dental experience at the time was inconvenient and painful.
I think I need to be honest here and tell you, “I HATE THE DENTIST!!!” I have always hated the dentist, ever since I was a kid. I had a dentist back then that felt I didn’t require freezing to fill the occasional cavity since they weren’t deep into the tooth. The high pitched whine of the drill sent spasms throughout my body even before the nasty device touched the damaged tooth. To this day the sound of a dentist’s drill makes me cringe.
When I hit the stage that freezing was required, I learned something new. I HATE THE NEEDLES EVEN MORE!! They’re GY-NORMOUS!! Regular GP’s don’t use needles that big!! Even drug addicts don’t use needles that size!!! What does that tell me about their accuracy??? In the army they give the bazooka to the guy that can’t aim! And why do they need to use stainless steel syringes!!! No one else does!! I saw the ‘Marathon Man’… and NO IT’S NOT SAFE!!!
By the time my dentist had referred me to the specialist my teeth had become quite sensitive. Even the normal cleaning required novocaine. They had also started to fall out. I lost the first one to an egg roll. Bit down and CRACK!!! It didn’t fall out but was loose and wobbly until my dentist gave it a tug at my next visit. He told me then that one day I would require dentures but that time was still a ways off. I was thirty.
At forty-three my dentist had handed me off to the specialist and I was down five teeth. My first visit to the specialist resulted in the extraction of three more. Over the course of six more years I had lost every one of my molars but one and it was useless! Seems you need two molars to grind with and they have to line up! I chewed food like a rabbit and cut everything into small pieces.
Over the next eight years I lost teeth to ribs, corn chips, a sub and Patrick’s peppered steak. It happened they same way every time, I would bite down and CRACK… loose tooth. The specialist would pull it out telling me that “I would someday need dentures but not for a while.”
Up until that point I had yet to lose any of my front teeth. Although one of my incisors (vampire teeth) had started to sag and was now noticeably lower than the rest of my teeth, I soldiered on with my ninety day visits. The first front tooth that came loose was a lower one the result of biting down on a pepper corn, it got loose and fell out two months later. I was mortified and refused to smile!! I skipped the specialist and made an appointment with a denturist.
It was short and to the point. He looked in my mouth, gave my teeth a few taps with a steel instrument (What is with dentists and stainless steel?!!) and firmly pronounced that, “Yep, you’re going to need dentures someday… but for now the others ones are firmly in place, so not for a while yet.” Are you serious??? Not for a while yet! You dental professionals have kept me on the hook for two decades of 90 day visits!! My insurance company has doled out almost $50,000 staving off what everyone agreed was inevitable!!! I left that denturist pissed right off and promptly phoned the specialist and canceled all future appointments. I was not going back to another dental professional until ‘someday’ arrived!
‘Someday’ arrived this last May, I bit down on God knows what and CRACK… the drooping incisor started to wobble. I tried for a couple of weeks to push it back up in the hope that the gum would miraculously grab hold and firm it up. I had a wedding coming up and if I lose this tooth I’m going to look like a hillbilly in all the pictures!! I gave up my boycott and went back to the denturist. This time he looked in my mouth, didn’t bother with the stainless steel weapon and pronounced that “Yes it’s time for dentures.”
Getting dentures is a completely different process from the regular dentist or the specialist dentist. The first five appointments were pain free. No needles or drills just new age plaster and bite down. In and out in fifteen minutes, the best visits I’d ever had to the dentist!
Visit six, not so much. That visit was the day the last 17 teeth I had remaining in my head were extracted. SEVENTEEN… THAT’S IT!! There were needles, lots of needles. My entire face was frozen to the point it felt like it had melted onto my shoulders, everything drooped. It felt like my upper lip was pulling my nose down.
“All right,” the dentist says, “let’s begin.” It took him less than ten minutes to take them out. I think he was getting two at a time. They cleaned me up and presented me with a new set of teeth. Straight white teeth, with gums that looked healthy, and not just seventeen but a whole set of thirty-two!!! The dentist places them in my still very frozen mouth and looks. “Hmm.” He pops them out gets out a small grinder, zip, zip and pops them back in my mouth. “That’s better” he proclaims.
I’m handed a mirror just like I would be after a hair cut so I can see my new smile for myself. My face won’t move without me pulling up the lips. It looks as strange and foreign as it feels. I’m told that I will feel a lot more discomfort as the anesthetic wears off and am given a prescription for the pain. I am then instructed to return in 48 hours and sent on my merry way.
Having ones face ‘frozen’ is quite the experience. I can’t feel anything below my eyes right down to my neck. My nose feels like rubber and I have the sensation that both my lips have a liter of Botox in them and that they’re drooping onto my chin. And what’s with all the slobber??? I can’t stop drooling! That shit just keeps flowing out and down my face and I can’t even spit it out… because my lips aren’t working!!
As the effects of the novocaine wears off my face starts to tingle. Just like when your foot wakes after falling asleep suddenly my face is hot and the tingle is now pins and needles and what the hell is that throbbing?!!! Oh yeah… my mouth has just sustained a massive trauma and it’s not happy about it!! After a few hours the tingling has gone but the throbbing has intensified and I’m now starving. There’s no way I’m going to be able to eat anything solid. I tried soup and that hurt!
I don’t know if I’d recommend it as a way to drop a quick twenty pounds but having your teeth removed will make it happen. For the first few days my diet was coffee supplemented with scrambled eggs (thanks to Honey feeling sorry for me), and whipped potatoes because I needed mass in my belly. Mostly it was just liquids staving off the hunger pangs. I dropped ten pounds and two inches in pant size within 10 days and that had doubled after the first month of my new choppers.
Now you’re thinking to yourself, why was I losing weight when I had a new set of teeth to aid me in the consumption of food? There are two very good reasons why this happened.
The first is that orthodontics it turns out is not a ‘precise’ science. The creation of my teeth was based on what is at best an educated guess. Using measurements and molds they create a set of teeth that from the outside are straight and white with healthy pink gums, but on the inside are only approximately molded to the contours of my mouth. No one knows exactly the shape my gums will take once the foundation for their entire existence is ripped out by the roots. That’s where my new friend the orthodontist and his trusty grinder come in.
His job is to make minor adjustments as the swelling goes down. Oh did I forget to mention that there’s swelling to go with the pain and hunger. I stop by every two or three days for the first few weeks. He pops out my teeth, examines my mouth to see how the healing is going, does a quick zip, zip, grind on the denture, slams them in my mouth and I’m good to go for another few days. Totally painless!! I love this guy!!!
The second reason for my loss in weight is because I had to learn how to eat all over again. I hadn’t had a molar to grind with, in almost four years!! I’d forgotten how to chew!! I hadn’t used the left side of my mouth to eat in more than a decade; I had forgotten that I had ever chewed on that side of my mouth! Add that conditioning to the fact that depending on how I chewed my new choppers would pop out. Not out of my mouth but away from the gum allowing the food I was chewing to get between the teeth and my injured gums.
Having food get between your new teeth and the fresh scar tissue of your gums, then biting down is much the same as cracking a walnut by holding it up against your forehead and using a hammer. Even if you hit that walnut dead on there is still going to be extensive damage to your skull or at the very least it’s going to hurt like hell!! This happened anytime even the smallest speck of food got under the teeth. Any time this happened I was forced to stop mid-chew and run to the bathroom. I would spit out what was still in my mouth while holding the denture for fear of launching it into the toilet, then remove the denture and rinse both it and my mouth until the speck of whatever was gone.
Food also no longer tasted the same. Taste isn’t quite accurate since your taste buds are on your tongue, so the taste was the same but the texture was wrong. Having a plate in your mouth prevented my mouth from experiencing the full taste and texture of the food. Ultimately food became no fun; I returned to liquids and dropped the second 10 pounds.
The commercials you see on television that extol the merits of dentures by selling you on the idea that you can “get your smile back” are true and false. True, in that I now have a beautiful smile, and false because I had forgotten how to smile. Over the years my smile had narrowed as I lost more and more teeth until it had become mostly closed mouthed. Now having some foreign object in my mouth made me even more conscious about my smile even though it was there to remedy the original issue.
No matter how often I would tell my brain it was okay to smile and that no one would know, it took quite some time for my brain to listen. My brain continued to reject the idea that the prosthetic could mimic the perfect smile and therefore my smile became forced rather than natural. I would tell my brain to smile and it would tell me I was nuts and refuse to let my lips perform as they should, that created a crooked smile. For the first six weeks my brain continually reminded me that I no longer had real teeth, this was aided by people who were aware I had had the procedures asking to see the results. “Let’s see them,” they would request, making me feel like I was on display at the zoo. I’d give them the forced smile that I use when I’m told to smile for a photograph. We’ve all got that smile.
If any of you have played sports that required dental protection, having dentures is much the same as wearing a mouth guard. The difference being that the mouth guard protects your teeth and the dentures are your teeth. It felt odd and awkward at first but as time went by I’ve become accustom to the feeling. My face also took on different dimensions. While your natural teeth grow directly from the gum, a denture wraps around the gum causing your lips to puff out as they make room for the prosthetic. My brain recorded all of this and used it to reinforce the idea that everyone could tell I had false teeth. Sometimes I hate my brain.
The nastiest thing that my brain did was to convince my tongue to produce an endless supply of saliva to aid my throat in swallowing the teeth. ‘I have no intention of eating these things,’ I would tell my brain, to which it would reply, ‘But look I made all this spit to help get them down.’ This went on for weeks, at least with teeth in place and no freezing I was able to stop the drool, for the most part, from running down my chin.
The final obstacle I faced because of dentures was to learn how to speak again. Once again my brain was in full reject mode. First it wouldn’t allow my tongue to come in contact with the teeth, creating a pronounced lisp and saying any word with an ess sound made me whistle. I sounded pretty much like that beaver in the Bugs Bunny cartoons. If I talked too fast it was worse and guaranteed that at one point I would open my mouth and the drool would expunge itself down my chin. I was pretty quiet for the first few weeks.
I made regular visits to the Orthodontist right up to a week before GenCo’s nuptials. That was when I discovered the greatest product ever invented by man… Fixodent!! Cement for dentures!! It’s a miracle product!!! Put that stuff around the edges of the denture and in the areas that come in contact with the roof of my mouth and presto… everything stabilizes!! No more lisps, a controllable whistle, my lips move separate from my teeth when I smile and damn… I can chew again! Fixodent has changed my life!!!
It also helped me gain back the twenty pounds I’d lost, no more food under the denture and I can chew just about anything. I looked great in the wedding pictures, ugly yes, but with a winning smile and over the past year my brain has come to accept the fact that I am not planning to swallow my new teeth and stopped producing saliva by the bucket full. All in all I’m pleased with the results and my natural smile is slowly returning. It took a long time for ‘someday’ to arrive but I’m glad it did.