In the seventies. The popular poet and performer Pam Ayres wrote a poem called ‘I Wish I’d Looked After Me Teeth!’ I remember it well.
Oh, I wish I’d looked after me teeth,
And spotted the dangers beneath
All the toffees I chewed,
And the sweet sticky food.
Oh, I wish I’d looked after me teeth.
How I laughed at my mother’s false teeth,
As they foamed in the waters beneath.
But now comes the reckonin’
It’s me they are beckonin’
Oh, I wish I’d looked after me teeth.
My parents took me regularly to the dentist and I was never afraid to go. I always brushed my teeth twice a day and it was rare for me to eat sweets or drink juice. I still had most of my baby teeth as I grew older and I had to have a lot of them taken out before I went to senior school. My Grandma, Big Maz, had false teeth and I would regularly ask her to take them out but she never did. I found it hilarious that anyone could have false teeth and I felt very proud that that fate would never befall me as I took such good care of my own.
Sadly, it looks like I will be getting false teeth in the next ten years. It’s not my fault at all. I’ve been lost in the system. I’ve been let down by the NHS, as now I have only 20% of the teeth left that I had at twenty. I am chronically embarrassed by the state of my teeth and when I speak to people, I try not to open my mouth very much in case they see my awful stumps of teeth. I cannot chew meat. My food must be soft. We barely go out for dinner as I might not be able to eat my food. My issue was not spotted by a dentist until I was thirty.
The reason why is because apparently, I have an unusual shaped jaw. My teeth do not fit behind each other when I close my mouth. They sit on top of each other and so over the years they have been worn down. I also grind my teeth, and this was again only spotted when I was thirty. I now must have Botox injections every six weeks, but it usually ends up being every six months and I also wear a gum shield at night. The Botox is incredibly painful as I am very sensitive to local anaesthetics. It helps but only for a few weeks.
The trouble is that no one seems to be prepared to help me or to treat me. I will go to dentists and they tell me that there is nothing they can do. They tell me that my condition is too complex for them to treat. I have been referred to the dental hospital several times. They tell me that my condition is very severe and serious and yet I do not qualify for treatment as my problem was not caused by trauma.
I’ve investigated an overdenture. This would have cost about a thousand pounds. However, the denture specialist told me that he could not guarantee that he could make me one as my condition is so complex.
Dentists will not treat me. The dental hospital will not treat me. I’ve written to the Prime Minister about my teeth. I’ve written to NHS England about my teeth. Yet I keep being pushed around and no one is prepared to accept any responsibility to treat me. Yesterday I went yet again to the dental hospital to beg them to help me. They tried their best, but they really can’t help because as they kept repeating, my condition is not caused by trauma. I ended up crying out of frustration. What made things worse was when the dentist told me how healthy my teeth are, even though they are now worn down. I’ve never had a filling. Ever.
My only real possibility is to try and find a private dentist who might consider giving me implants. Implants cost a great deal of money that I cannot afford. I am looking at something like twenty-thousand pounds. If I do have implants, then I will continue to wear my teeth down when I eat because of the shape of my jaw. This might mean that I need my jaw to be broken and reset. However, I am awaiting to be referred to see a jaw specialist and this could take many years as the service is in so much demand.
‘You just need a dentist who will take you on and will co-ordinate all the various treatments.” The specialist told me yesterday. If only it were that simple. No dentist will take me on now on the NHS, as my condition is apparently so complex.
So today, I decided to stop feeling so embarrassed and address the issue in my writing. I’m hopeful that maybe someone might read this and can offer me some advice. I’m so mortally embarrassed by the state of my teeth. I know people must be thinking, ‘God she hasn’t looked after her teeth!” But I really have cared for them. I’d do anything to smile again. I really would.