Den·tist·ry P. (dnt-str)n.
The science concerned with the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of diseases of the teeth, gums, and related structures of the mouth and including the repair or replacement of defective teeth.
The Numpty and the Wall
When I was three, I walked into a wall, or possibly a door, as you'd expect at that age and because of the situation and velocity at which most children of that age travel, I don't remember much of it, but my mother has told me the story many times. Walking into that wall kinda changed my life, or at least my appearance. It killed my front right incisor leaving me with a tell tale yellow tooth until the age of 7 or 8 after years of being told 'we'll wait until you're a bit older.'
I was sent to the dental hospital or more importantly, the dental hospital part of the university in Dundee. I was sat in a room full of people and made to have my tooth pulled. Or at least that's how I remember it, a huge white hospital room with lots of dental stations pitched around the site. I have no doubt this is just my memory playing tricks on me, but it may be true as it wasn't an experience I had endured lightly. Never the less, the tooth was pulled and finially I was allowed to have my other teeth grow in. But nothing's the simple...
When my tooth never appeared my dentist - Stuart - originally just figured it would take a while, but as a precaution decided to take an x-ray of my mouth. That x-ray has shaped my life to this day and will into my future. It showed that I had not just one but both of my adult incisors missing. It never really bothered me, I'd always been 'Gappy Annie', always been able to fit the tip of my tongue between my front teeth and never given an open mouth grin since primary one - the photo is proudly displayed in both my grandparents houses. There was a lot of talk, a lot more x-rays and moulding and models made of my mouth until braces were mentioned.
The concept of a brace kept coming up, my parents and dentist would talk over my head - Stuart still does this, always asking to talk to my mother when I get given big decisions - I was sent to a private dentist, who decided his course of action would be to push my eye teeth and front teeth together and file them down so they looked like incisors. He also wanted to take out teeth from the already lacking top gum but also wanted remove teeth from my straight practically bottom set. My parents asked for a second opinion. The opinion was Stuart agreed it was far too intrusive - haha - and pointless, so maybe he should do it himself. I'd had this dentist since I was 6 or 7 and I think he was fairly recently qualified, set up in practice himself and therefore we agreed as it would be performed by a trusted person who wasn't going to make us pay an arm and a leg for it.
It took until Primary 6 at the age of 9 to get movement on the brace front, being sent every couple of weeks either to the local dentists surgery or to Perth Royal Infirmary (PRI) to firstly have rubber bands inserted to make more gaps at the back of my teeth, big metal rings with hooks on placed over my teeth, track pads glued to my teeth and then the wires inserted. It was traumatising only because I've never broken a bone, never been in hospital, the worst injury I'd recieved being from falling off a gymnastics box and throwing out my back the year previously. Possibly the most traumatising thing though was the head gear.
The head gear is a devise placed on the head - strangely - which secures at night a large piece of metal like a horses bit in your mouth via the hooks on the back metal rings. My dentist didn't fit it properly, so I ended up with my father taking pliers to it whilst in situ - be scared. I wish I could discribe the pain, terror and anguise that this contraption put me through, it still makes me want to cry when I think about it today. I refused to come out of my room when I had it in, have anyone in my room, talk to anyone, have the light on while on holiday despite taking pride in making it its own little security box despite knowing no one would be a big enough masocist to steal it. So in general, I spent every night crying myself to sleep for 3 years.
Eventually I discarded this method of extreme tourture, lying to Stuart, telling him I wore it religiously and in fact being told on the nights I did wear it that I'd made little progress and the nights I hadn't masses. I still have it somewhere, hidden in a box, it makes me cry to look at it yet I don't want to be parted from it seeing it was such a huge step in my life.
As the brace worked it magic gaps where teeth should be appeared, gaps where there shouldn't be gaps disappeared and I got two perfectly matched false teeth attached to my brace. My most vivid memories of these being the night before a holiday of a lifetime, London for the first time, breaking the tooth off and refusing to talk when out the whole time I was there. I eventually had to take more time off school - this being a regular occurance for me to miss a day or more every couple of weeks - being made to sit in a cafe opposite my parents crying as I was forced to leave the hospital with only one of my precious teeth. Luckily I was to go back the same evening to have it fitted again.
After three years, by which time I was in first year, going into second year of high school (13) I was told there was now little to no movement of my teeth and it was safe to have the brace removed and for a plate to be given to me. More moulding, more x-rays, more time and missed school I went back to hospital and had my brace carefully though painfully removed.
My lip felt like it was a million miles away from my teeth and I was lisping because I couldn't get back to normal. This knocked my confidence, every major thing I had done rendered my speech a little altered for a few days while I got used to things. Especially after three or more years of speech therapy it was a huge knock back as I had rid myself of a fairly annoying and frustrating speech inpendiment, I'd relearnt how to pronounce everything after having to be taught to read and write a year or more behind my peers. To have had my brace removed and have my pronounciation problem return, even in the mildest and most unperimant of occurances, especially as since having my brace removed I've become more aware when I do make mistakes still. But it didn't matter, no more train tracks, by all intense purposes I was normal.
You better Smile!
Four years on, on Halloween 2001 I was told to come to my dentists practice and that that day I was to finally get what I'd always wished for...my two front teeth. People joke when they say 'all the want for christmas is their two front teeth' mine was an reality and it was gonna happen. I sat and removed my brace being told to pocket it 'just in case' and when I walked out a little sore, I smiled.
I spent seven or more years of my life hiding my grins, closed smiles and idiotic grins until I got my teeth finally attached without wires hiding their view. I was almost disappointed when my friends didn't notice straight away, but how could you notice, these two false teeth look natural, simply attached at the back of my front teeth by bits of metal.
Things aren't over yet, I've still got another stage to go, when I turn 25 in 2010 I have to get consulted about a more preminant option, about transplants. It seems extreme and will probably cost a bit, but it's something I've wanted since I was old enough to remember, if it works, well, 'you better smile.'