“I am not my teeth”

I had never even considered that I might have serious health ailment. Not until I was 23 years old, when I had 9 teeth pulled in one day.

Bad teeth are in my genes. But mine are different.

Apparently, due to a high fever I had as an infant, my adult teeth failed to grow any enamel.

I learned this at an early age, when I was told by a dentist that, despite my obsessive flossing and brushing, every tooth in my mouth needed to be replaced. Dentists used to scold me as a child and accuse me of eating too much sugar or not brushing. Once, a dentist brought my mother into his office to tell her that he thought I was doing crack – which was why, he thought, my condition was so bad.

I soon realized that my teeth would inevitably rot out of my skull. One by one, and at a rapid pace. This inevitable fact still horrifies me on a daily basis. At one point, when I was unemployed, broke, and suffering from major depression, it brought me very close to suicide.

At 14, I had eight of my front teeth drilled down to nubs, then replaced with porcelain. This was because my smile was beginning to crack and grow unsightly holes, which lead me to barely open my mouth. I already had a difficult upbringing and home life, a learning disability, and an overall difficult time fitting in. All this, for a teenager in high school, was pretty horrific. So I avoided talking to most people. I tried to keep to myself so no one could see what was happening to me. Worst of all, I believed it was my fault. I believed I was being punished, and that I deserved it.

At first glance, most people assume I have a pretty smile.

Little do they know how much I have suffered, and continue to suffer, on a daily basis. How, whenever I make a choice of what to eat, I have to wonder, “is it too crunchy? can I chew it?”. Currently, I’m functioning with 4 or 5 molars, which leaves little to work with. Basically, eating anything except soup can be a struggle. When I had my nine teeth pulled, it took me weeks to chew again.

Essentially, I’m suffering from an ailment that someone three times my age should have. Yet, here I am, living through it in my twenties. And there’s not much I can do. I’m told I’ll need dentures before I’m 30.

Instead of getting an education like I had planned, I’m working on getting my teeth back. My goal is to get dental implants – where it’s much cheaper: Mexico.

Perhaps if I was in the 1%. Perhaps if my parents weren’t lower-middle class. Perhaps if the health care system in our country didn’t consider a dental health issue as a “cosmetic issue”. Perhaps then, I’d have some bones to chew with.