By Carver Claeys
For as long as I can remember, I’ve had dentures. My mother made the sacrifices to give me the opportunity to feel like all of the other children who were smiling for one reason or another. Laughter on the playground with your friends. Smiling at your childhood sweetheart.
My mother didn’t want me to miss out on those wonderful experiences and not have them because of being self-conscious and so, I am very grateful to be able to have dentures.
However, the experience I had getting them was somewhat lengthy to me, or at least it seemed that way. In reality, the process isn’t that long at all and takes only a handful of visits to get everything in place and manufactured so that it compliments who you are in a really worthwhile way. As a young kid though, when attention spans are at their lowest points, the process seemed to take forever.
And, the “goop” or material the dentists put in my mouth in order to get the perfect mold was not a very enjoyable experience either. In fact, I nearly gagged multiple times. But after those close calls, even as a youngster I managed to discover that simply breathing out
of your nose slowly and calmly pretty much solved all of those uncomfortable feelings and even the dentist noticed that I could take those goop sessions like a pro.
So, if I were to give any advice to parents getting their young child a brand new smile, I’d say to emphasize how quickly the process actually takes and how to breathe calmly through your nose when the goop part of the process comes up. That means less impatience and hopefully not any gagging. If I can do it, any kid can do it. The end result is completely worth any trouble.
Foods that I couldn’t eat such as apples and steak due to my lack of teeth now became available to me and a whole new world of nutrition and enjoyable food were opened up. My teeth were incredibly sensitive to things like ice cream because my teeth were conical and thus lacking a lot of enamel between the nerve and the end of the tooth. But with dentures, I could take whole bites of ice cream and not feel intensely painful cold on my teeth. It really is almost depressing to imagine a kid never being able to even enjoy ice cream.
Interestingly, when I got to middle school, I actually started not wanting to wear my dentures. Before middle school, I had no problem with them and they were just something I had to put in my mouth to look more normal. But, once kids get past the page of 11 or 12, they begin to think more abstractly and start pondering about deep things like identity. I liked the freedom of not having anything in your mouth and the fact that my teeth were sparse in number and conical didn’t matter to me. It added to my identity of being different and I embraced it. Dentures took away from that uniqueness that I liked to now parade. No one else at school had teeth like mine and I didn’t want to lose that.
Then, the time came when I was 15 to get new dentures and start the process for lower implants. I went through the it all over again except now surgery was in the picture. I had never had surgery before so of course I was terrified
This time around, it wasn’t as bad as I maybe wanted to remember…and the surgical process was even easier. I was out before I knew it and in bed recovering with bottles of pain-killers that helped immensely.
The pain soon subsided and I had not just a good smile but a PERMANENT smile that I didn’t have to worry about taking out at night before bed, other than my top dentures. When I had dentures in my earlier years, sometimes my lower denture would rock quite a bit when biting really hard on something tough, but with a permanent fixture, that issue was now obsolete. It went smoothly and there was no hassle. Everything happened as it should. And people sure noticed the difference. Despite my longing to be different, I actually never felt happier or more confident with this new smile.
I didn’t feel like I lost my uniqueness because there were so many things that added to who I was whether it be my love of music, theater, history, or my friends.
My smile didn’t define me, but I think the new smile that I got after everything was said and done made the definition a little sharper.
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