A whiter Shade Of Pale

I have always known the value of a perfect smile. In 1992, I spent a miserable summer working in a cake factory before starting university. One day I was asked to guess the age of an older female colleague, to which I innocently replied that I would need to see her teeth. Fortunately she laughed.red-smile
My quest for perfect teeth had begun several years earlier: a plate brace at primary school followed by a metal brace for four long years at secondary school. (I endured a couple of unimaginative ‘Metal Mickey’ jokes at primary school, but by the time I went to my convent secondary school the brace wearers far outnumbered those who were naturally blessed). I ended up with perfectly shaped teeth.
If only the story ended there. After university I got sacked from four successive office jobs (I was the worst typist ever) and my sugar addiction spiralled out of control; I used to binge on chocolates as I walked to work, knowing full well that my days were numbered. Sugar dissolves enamel so my then dentist plugged the holes (poorly) with composite bonds. I thought nothing of this at the time. I did manage to eventually control my sugar addiction with hypnosis, but that is another article.
As the years went by, my teeth naturally became stained so I decided to have them whitened My first attempt cost a mere £200 (bargain!) and failed to make any difference whatsoever. My nonplussed NHS dentist failed to mention that my composite bonds were resistant to bleach. That should have been a warning.
My second attempt was more successful and I would not be in this dilemma now had my dentist not retired early due to ill health. Covering the entire tooth with the composite bond, instead of just plugging the hole, resulted in a far more natural finish; he also bleached the remaining teeth. I was relatively pleased but would have preferred a shade whiter.
Roll on three or four years and my teeth had started to look yellowish again – composite bonds are just as vulnerable to staining as normal teeth. I needed to find a new dentist and preferably a longer term solution. The only other option was mind-numbingly expensive veneers – but they do not stain and can last up to 20 years. I decided to be sensible by consulting with several different cosmetic dentists because of the price involved. I had read about a new type of veneer which could be glued over your existing teeth. This seemed like a perfect solution as the thought of having my teeth filed down terrified the hell out of me. (What if they fell off in ten years time and I couldn’t afford a replacement? I would be left with a stump!) So far I had not had any visible disasters from my beauty adventures but was is only a matter of time.
Dr P immediately put me at ease. My composite fillings could simply be replaced every 3 or 4 years when they became stained, but would never look quite as natural as veneers. I was a good candidate for ‘stick-ons’ because my teeth were too thin to be filed down anyway. (This could be a sign of drug use and I could see his mind working overtime. In reality this was probably due to my sugar addiction rather than a drug-addled past). He recommended eight veneers along the top only which would also correct my asymmetric smile; colour was important too – a bright white shade can look harsh with age.
March 2010
Back to London, this time to see Dr C. He also recommended veneers and although I did not warm to him, he did make some interesting points: if I went too white it would make the bottom teeth look yellow in comparison; bottom teeth do not show as much when you smile but show more when you talk. He sneered at my choice of Hollywood white, which was, quite rightly, far too white. These new types of veneer had actually been around for years, but were now being marketed as stick-ons; he does not use them because other makes are harder. My teeth would not need much filing down, but I would need temporaries which are great for trying out shape and colour (how true that turned out to be). But the thought of filing down still made me nervous. The next week I received a ‘courtesy call’ which sealed the deal. I do not expect the hard sell from a dentist.
April 2010
Back to London for my next appointment with Dr P. Since I started saving the price has gone up! Damn. However, I found myself trusting him once more. Ironically acid erosion and over-brushing had exposed the roots of several teeth, leaving me with a delicate gum line; I needed to wait two or three hours for my pH levels to return to normal after eating my evening meal before cleaning my teeth because it is much harder to repair erosion at the gum line than inside the tooth. Sugar was slowly eroding my teeth. Oops.
May 2010
Fortunately Dr P hardly needed to file my teeth down at all, so there was no need for temporaries before the veneers were fitted (celebrities can simply hibernate for two weeks but my boss would not be so understanding). The preparation was by far the most painful of any other treatment I have endured in the name of beauty. My mouth was jammed open and Dr P kept squirting my teeth with water to cool them down – I felt as if I was drowning. Then we got to the exciting bit – deciding on the colour! I wanted to go really white but Dr P warned against this and, remembering the sneer from Dr C, I trusted him. Big mistake.
October 2011
My veneer fell off! Fortunately I managed to stick it back on because the filed down tooth is far whiter than the veneer (oh the irony). It made me realise that I need to keep in regular touch with Dr P in case this ever happens again;another dentist would have charged me.
October 2011
A second veneer has fallen off! I went down to London all guns blazing, determined not to leave before all the veneers had been replaced, but all I got was a lecture and a bill for £120, blaming my love of sugar. Fruit is fine as long as it is part of a meal, rather than as a snack between meals when the saliva levels, (which protect the teeth), are low.
June 2012
Oh no! A third veneer has fallen off despite all my dietary efforts. I will try a different approach when I see him on Tuesday – good cop instead of bad cop; distressed and tearful rather than indignant and litigious.
July 2012
Dr P seemed so genuinely sorry that I felt guilty for assuming he was the second hand car salesman of the dentistry world. He offered to replace all the veneers, which were coming off because of a batch of faulty glue, but warned that this would involve filing down my own teeth slightly. Of course gluing the veneers directly on top of the tooth (rather than filing those down first), had resulted in deliciously plumped up pout which would then deflate! I decided to leave them as they were for now.
And the result? Not what I expected. The shape is undoubtedly perfect but the uniformity reminds me of dentures. When people guess, which they often do, I always deny it, but who am I trying to kid. The colour is natural, but then I already had natural. I wish I had been braver – not Hollywood white but brighter. The moral of the tale? Veneers are permanent. Step away from the sugar.

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