Saturday 13 January 2018

Desperate dentistry

This story was originally published on in 2010
"If I could undo just one mistake I made in my life, it would have been home dentistry," says Brenda, a 29-year-old single mum from Halifax. 
"It all started when a 'friend' mentioned that my yellow teeth might be the reason why I was having trouble getting beyond the first date. I knew giving up smoking would be good for my complexion, but I was going through a bit of a rough patch in my life, so I didn't manage to. Instead, I decided to bleach my teeth. Unfortunately, whitening treatments at the dentist can cost up to £750. I simply couldn't afford that and didn't have dental insurance. I don't even know whether there are any dental insurance plans that cover such treatments. Either way, I opted for one of these teeth whitening kits."
"It contained ten disposable, individually wrapped, single-dose applications which you're meant to use on a daily basis. Because my teeth were extraordinarily yellow, I decided to buy two kits and prolonged the treatment with three days. The result wasn't so bad." She shows me her bright, white smile. "Except that I've got two crowns on the left side of my mouth, and the whitening didn't do anything for them. But hardly anybody notices, so I was very impressed with my DIY dentistry. I was so confident about my dentistry skills that when Priscilla, my little princess, was starting to lose her first baby teeth, I decided to speed up the process and help her through this difficult phase. As soon as a tooth started to wobble, I would tie a piece of string around it and yank it out with the door. I told her I knew it hurt, but that it would hurt a lot more if she left them in."
"I didn't know that my warnings frightened her so much that she was actually forcing her teeth to wobble sooner in order to speed up the process of getting rid of them. Until, after two months, she told me her upper canine on the left was ready to go again. And so it seemed, except that her upper canine on the left had been the first to go, and it was a permanent tooth that was loose in its socket now."
"Of course I should have taken her to the dentist there and then, but I was embarrassed because at that time, she was almost completely toothless – she couldn't even eat a ham sandwich – and I knew it was my fault. So instead of seeking professional help, I explained to her that from now on she should leave her teeth alone to prevent more pain."
Brenda sniffs and wipes a single tear from the corner of her eye, leaving a black streak of mascara on the side of her face. "How was I supposed to know she'd stop brushing her teeth because she thought that was what I meant and because brushing her toothless gums hurt?" 
"When Priscilla turned eight, most of her permanent teeth had grown in crowded and crooked, and they were all discoloured because of tooth decay. She hated her own face so much she never smiled nor ate in public. This was bad, and I decided to make an appointment with an NHS dentist, but we ended up on a waiting list. And that's when she found my old teeth whitening kit. There were seven single-dose applications left, and she used them all at once. The whitening gel leaked onto her gums, tongue, the insides of her cheeks and she even swallowed some, all of which lead to serious blistering. My poor little princess."
Brenda blows her nose before she continues. "Of course I blame myself. For leaving that bleaching gel out, for extracting her baby teeth too early, for not taking her to a dentist when she obviously needed one, and especially for not having proper dental insurance. If I'd have had dental insurance, none of this would have happened."

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