I am no stranger to living with a false tooth – I got my first one when I was nine years old. Due to the way my palate grew, when it was repaired, the middle tooth did not grow (since there wasn’t any gum there for one to grow out from). Over the years I’ve had false teeth attached to braces, stuck on to neighbouring teeth and incorporated as part of retainers. Once my reconstructive surgery was finished in September 2017, I had my final, permanent false tooth fitted in February 2018.
This is a common part of being born with a cleft lip and palate, however there are many different types of permanent false teeth. Three of the main types include an implant, a bridge and a retainer. The retainer works in a fairly obvious way – the tooth is attached to a retainer that can be taken out easily. A bridge is where the tooth is permanently attached on a wire to the neighbouring teeth, and an implant means that the false tooth is attached to a screw and drilled into the bone of the jaw, through the gum.
Being born with a cleft lip and palate may mean that some of the bone of the upper jaw is less stable (or non-existent). When I had my jaw surgeries, I had trouble with having a stable, bony union. This added to the issue of having very little bone to start with in the middle of my top jaw. Therefore, I decided not to have the implant. Instead I went for a bridge. The procedure seemed relatively simple: about two weeks prior to the fitting, I went in to get a colour and size check and some very accurate impressions taken. The appointment where the restorative dentist actually fitted the tooth was pretty intense – it was about 2-3 hours long, which meant my jaw muscles were killing me after having to have my mouth open for so long. They attached the tooth to a wire and ‘glued’ it to the neighbouring teeth. Teeth that are put on a bridge don’t always work well for everyone and they can sometimes fall out. My restorative dentist said that if everything was still okay after the first six months, my mouth would probably be okay with the false tooth. As I write this, it’s over eight months ago that the tooth was fitted and I’m still smiling proudly, so fingers crossed the tooth will last me for many years to come.
I absolutely LOVE my new smile! My teeth look so straight and you really can’t tell that my most prominent tooth is false. Apart from a small issue with biting through my first retainer (I have surprisingly strong jaw muscles and clench my teeth a lot at night) and getting a new stronger one made with wires, getting my false tooth marks the end of my cleft journey.
It’s been an absolute rollercoaster. I can’t believe how far I’ve come and how much it has shaped me into the positive person I am today. Walking out of my final appointment was incredibly emotional. I owe so much to my amazing team. They’ve completely changed my life and I will never be able to thank them enough!
I’ve got one final review in February 2019, which is not a treatment appointment (I’m done with all that now), it’s just a final check to make sure everything is as it should be. All being okay, I will have finally reached the end of my cleft treatment journey, meaning it’s finally time to share my smile with the world!