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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Dental Work Part One

One of the things I did as I began this makeover was to quit smoking.  That seems like such a simple sentence, but quitting smoking was not simple and smoking was an integrated part of my identity since age 11.  I have a lot I will share about quitting smoking...what that looked like, what I felt, how I did it, etc.

But right now I want to focus on one aspect that is ongoing and will take all of 2011 to make over.  And that is my teeth.

You can't smoke for 32 years, every day, sometimes a pack, sometimes up to two packs, without doing some seriously major damage to your body.  My teeth reflect some of this damage.  I never knew that smoking causes periodontal disease or that it is incurable (though it can be managed.)  I never knew that smoking could weaken your bone in your jaw causing your teeth to come out!  I never knew just how bad smoking was for your teeth.

What I did know, however, was that being a smoker made me feel unworthy of going to the dentist.  I knew smoking was bad.  I knew it was yellowing my teeth and when I was 29 I went to a dentist who looked at the discoloration and said, (this is an exact quote), "there is no excuse for a woman your age to have teeth like this."

Well, the shame of that, combined with my own shame for being a smoker, combined with an already low self worth in general, ensured I wouldn't go to dentist again unless I had an absess and needed a tooth pulled. (I really never knew what a root canal was until recently.  How could I know? I didn't go to dentists!)

Part of the inner transformation included an awakening that I am worth the effort and expense to get things right again.  Or at least, as right as I can.  I found an amazing dentist (if you are in Maryland I cannot recomment Patricia Stoker in Columbia, MD highly enough) who has now worked out a plan for me.  My teeth need a series of procedures in order to save them, including:

1. Scraping and Planing to remove periodontal plaque and get the periodontal disease under control

2. A mouth guard to get my jaw back into alignment (compensating for lost and shifted teeth has caused my entire jaw to move off center and I grind my teeth terribly.)

3. Invisalign braces to straighten my teeth.

4. Implants drilled into my jaw in order to give bridges something to attach to.

5. Two bridges to keep my teeth from shifting back again

6. Whitening and ongoing care.


No, literally, ouch...both in the mouth and the pocketbook.  I found a company called "" to handle the financing of the dental work and have done step 1.  They divided my mouth into quadrants and used a laser, a high powered water torture device, and manual scraping tools to dig down to the roots (literally) and remove the yuck.  Each visit was one quadrant only and took up to 5 hours with my mouth open and them working in there.  But it's done.  They are going to monitor it for 3 months, making sure everything is healthy, before moving onto part 2, the mouth guard.  That will also give me a chance to pay some of this off.  I'm at around $5,000.00 so far.  Smoking is more expensive than you think.

Here are a couple of before and after pics.  Even though it's still got a long way to go, I have to admit, for the first time in 20 years, I smile now without covering my mouth.  I'm pretty happy about it.  I wish I was born into a family and lifestyle where regular dental care was the norm and I felt worthy of maintaining my teeth despite my smoking, but I can't go back.  It is what it is...onward and upward!

Before and Afters

 They are by no means perfect and it will take a lot more scraping and cleaning to get them pearly white, but wow.  I think they did an amazing job!

Recommendation?  Don't wait for some perfect day when you are ready for the dentist, or when you reach your milestone (like quitting smoking).  GO NOW.  Get those check ups.  Get regular dental cleanings.  They told me that smokers should go every 3 months and that can prevent the issues I have.  GO!

And if you have bad teeth?  Love yourself enough to work on it now.  It feels good and you are worth it!

(Added a very recent picture with the new smile at the request of Deanne below)
October 30, 2010 Nashville, TN Avett Brothers Concert

*huge hugs*


  1. Wow, that is both disturbing and inspiring all at once. So now you should post a smile with your teeth showing since they are purdy.

  2. And yes you are worth it!

    When I first saw the pictures I thought - I know she said she was good with a camera and getting good angles but how on earth did she get a camera in her mouth?? OK - I'm now thinking the dentist took them!!

    Good for you lovely!


  3. @Amanda: The dentist and her amazing hygenist (Erin) took them. There will be more pics in the future as we do more work. Just the fact that they took them and emailed them to me for my blog was amazing! LOVE these people. If I had found Dr. Stokers office years ago I wouldn't be having these problems now...they make you feel so warm and cared about no matter how far gone your situation! xo


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