I’m 58 – a post-menopausal, reasonably healthy woman. Carrying a little excess weight but nothing serious. I do a couple of high-impact exercise classes a week, rarely eat junk food (but am partial to chocolate). I’ve never smoked, and I drink once – occasionally twice – a week when I go out.
A childhood accident left me with a lot of missing teeth. I had extensive reconstructive bridgework in my teens and twenties – but it was never going to last forever and over the past five years or so I’d become aware that things were not right. I’ve never really processed the accident and have always had nightmares and a fear of dentists and anything teeth-related. Then my dentist retired, I registered with a new modern surgery and the super-cool-and-efficient Nikhil at Brunner Court Dental Practice in Northwich, Cheshire told me what I needed (but didn’t want) to know – that everything was failing and my existing teeth weren’t much better. After much thought, I opted for full implants, top and bottom. I’d never been more scared of anything and didn’t sleep for a couple of weeks beforehand. I also did lots of googling and watched lots of videos, but I couldn't find any warts-and-all descriptions of what the overall process was actually like. So I documented my own experiences below, and I will continue to update as this is a long slow road to (hopefully) a new perfect smile!
Saturday December 3rd, 2022. Day 0 – ground zero at the dentist
Ate 1 slice of toast at 9am as supposed to be in for 11, but we started a bit late as previous op was over-running. I was impressed to have a team of 7 all for me – Nikhil, a lovely chap flown down from Scotland (the sedation expert, so he was very welcome), a technician and 4 dental nurses.
Sedation – aaahhh, sweet midazolam! The first syringe felt like I’d drunk two bottles of wine in 30 seconds. I don’t remember the rest so I was completely out of it when they did all the extractions, which was something I was very scared about feeling and remembering. I came around a bit after that and I remember odd snatches of conversation and things happening – even drilling! – but I wasn’t at all bothered by it and there was no pain during any of the procedure. Four hours or so later, Andy drove me home to bed and it was all over.
Sunday. Day 1 post surgery
Ate some lightly scrambled egg and a small bowl of tomato soup – not at the same time. I tried yoghurt but the consistency is too sticky to eat properly. There's quite a lot of pain now, but manageable by alternating paracetamol and nurofen. I didn’t sleep well last night and I tried to sleep a bit more upright on a v-shaped pillow. I don’t know if my brain is still fried by childhood trauma, or whether the physical body trauma is affecting my HRT.
Swelling started in the afternoon. My whole face feels tight and sore and it’s hard to swallow as my new teeth feel like they are way too big for my small mouth. The front of my mouth feels stretched as my previous bridgework had no gum above the tooth. Hopefully when the swelling all goes down, my mouth will have more structure. Don’t know why my lips are so dry. Gargled with salt water today. Feel utterly miserable.
Monday. Day 2
Ate more scrambled egg and mushroom soup today. Lost half a stone since my pre-op weigh-in a few weeks ago! I really need to blow my nose but I don’t know if I should – Andy must be sick of me sniffing!
Still painful. The roof of my mouth feels really swollen as well as my face and cheeks and even underneath my eyes. Started using the industrial-strength mouthwash and tried a gentle brushing of teeth with soft toothbrush. Check up call from Louise at the dentist. Will need an X ray next week to check implant position.
Tuesday. Day 3
Still a hamster. Worried about the inside of my mouth, which doesn’t seem to be reducing as yet and I’m finding it hard to eat and swallow still. Plain vanilla ice-cream is nice. My teeth feel huge in my mouth and it’s hard to avoid banging them together! My eyes are smarting a lot.
What they don’t tell you – I had 6 implants top and bottom, so there are twelve screw holes in my teeth. Some are in the teeth, some are in the plastic behind, but the holes aren’t filled yet so I have what feel like huge holes everywhere and the surface area of the inside/bottom of my teeth are weirdly irregular. I assume after my check-up in two weeks, these holes will be filled for the next few months and that my ‘final’ teeth will be a bit more ‘normal’.
Wednesday. Day 4
Swelling seems to be reducing slightly. Today I put my contact lenses back in for the first time since Friday last week. I also got dressed and spent five minutes in the back garden, so definite improvement!
I’ve got significant bruising now. All around my mouth, jaw and lower cheeks is a fetching shade of yellow, so I’m not venturing further than the garden for a few days yet. Slightly concerned that my mouth seems a bit droopy on one side, but hopefully that will improve. Inside my mouth is still swollen and stitches are quite sore on one side. I’m thinking I might call into dentist on Friday and just get a quick check over to make sure I am where I am supposed to be.
No pain today – just an all-over vague throb/strong tingle. It’s hard to describe. I used to get it where my missing teeth used to be, so it’s a jaw thing. It doesn’t hurt, it just drives me mad and I want to grind my teeth and push back against it. I’m resisting temptation to poke around my mouth with my tongue!
What they don’t tell you – that they just don’t feel like teeth. Because there are no nerves, I’m still unaware of biting until the sensation transmits to my whole jaw. It’s such a strange feeling, like when you have a filling and you can’t feel through the tooth for a few hours. I suppose this will be permanent as my new teeth have no nerves?
Thursday. Day 5
Still taking nurofen last night. Pain seems very random in timing and location, but daytime is fine with the distraction of the tv, books and the internet. I feel better in myself today although the teeth still feel totally alien in my mouth. I slept better last night too, with a few hours of proper sleep. Still scared about lying on my side and squashing my face into the pillow as that’s my normal sleeping position!
Went in for a quick check-up and chat with Nikhil – just to be reassured that I am where I'm supposed to be! All OK. I'm very impressed by the ability to call in or phone any time for advice or reassurance – nothing is too much trouble.
Friday. Day 6
Still bruising and some remaining swelling around my jawline. Still having trouble speaking! Probably a blessing for Andy ...
Now 10lb down in weight! But I'm thinking I'm going to have to learn to to eat all over again as when I tried to chew some soft veg yesterday, I found it really difficult with no nerves in the teeth to tell my brain where the food was and how hard I needed to bite. Managed to eat some lightly-battered white fish and mushy peas this evening (but no chips) and experimented a bit with trying to figure out where to put my molars on the food.
What they don't tell you – because these teeth are temporary and fitted on-the-day, they are not going to fit perfectly. Plus they are plastic, whereas the real final teeth will be set on a metal frame (going to be so much fun in airports!) In order for them to be strong enough to eat with for a few months, there is a lot of substance. My mouth feels like it is crammed full of plastic right now and there are times when I just want to yank it all out! Except then I'd have nothing! But it is only temporary.
Saturday. Day 7 and the end of the first week
So where am I now? The bruising and swelling are almost gone. Still slightly puffy around the jawline and the inside of my mouth is sore, but I can move my lips now.
I can speak again, although my speech is slightly lispy as I'm having to talk around plastic. The teeth still feel very strange and unnatural, but I'm confident the final set will be better.
Eating is challenging. I can't bite yet and in any case, bigger bits of food hurt my mouth as I still have stitches. So I'm still mashing everything up with a fork and just swallowing. But I'm not going to starve over Christmas!
What they don't tell you – if you're considering saving money by going abroad for treatment, you only get a week and one set of teeth. I would absolutely not want the final teeth fitted on the day of surgery and only have a week to recover before going home – and then no aftercare. I am nowhere near recovered and I'm so pleased to be able to phone or call in to the dentist with any questions or issues. These temporary teeth fill my mouth with plastic, but I am happy to wait for everything to settle down before we look at crafting the final set.
End of second week
Mouth is still very sore and sensitive to heat - still on lukewarm food and drink and I'm still mushing everything with a fork and eating lots of ice-cream! I've also lost 12lb in weight, but that's an added bonus and I am trying to eat more as I need the energy for healing. I didn't expect eating to be quite so difficult, as I do like my food! No pain any more though, and I stopped taking nurofen at night a few nights ago. It is a long, slow process.
The weird tingling pressure I've been feeling is almost gone now. I've isolated it as the exact feeling you get when wearing braces to straighten teeth - the pressure of teeth being forced to move, so it kind of makes sense since I have things newly-drilled into my jawbone. I had an x-ray on day 13 and it all looks very science-fiction with huge things in my jawbone, but apparently they are textbook implants so the op was a success. I'm healing more slowly than they'd like though, so have been told to keep eating, rinsing with salt water and taking multi-vitamins and extra vitamin D.
What they don't tell you - those online videos of people smiling and telling their stories are way down the line! Presumably after they have their final permanent set of new teeth. It's only in the last few days that the bruising and swelling has finally gone down and there is no way I'll be eating apples for a few months yet.
End of Week 4
Hopefully a third of the way towards my final teeth! Eating is often more effort than it's worth and to be honest, I'm not really enjoying my food much at the moment. My mouth is no longer so sensitive, but I'm still mashing stuff and cutting crusts off bread! I'm now trying to clean the edges of the plastic and I have the fun of the water-flosser to play with later on in the week - and a hygienist appointment soon to show me how to do it properly.
I did notice a couple of days ago that the bottom set of teeth were moving slightly when I bit down. It was uncomfortable, but a quick trip into Brunner Court and Nik got his screwdriver set out and tightened everything! I'm fine now, so nothing to worry about.
Things I can eat: roast dinners - if the meat is chicken or turkey and the veg are well cooked. Beef and lamb are a bit too chewy as yet. Christmas dinner was good and the local carvery is even better as I don't have to cook it myself. And a sausage-and-egg breakfast bap if it's a soft white roll is a great breakfast (I am so over porridge), but I'm not eating bacon yet and I'm avoiding granary bread at the moment.
Things I can't eat: bread crusts. I must look like the fussiest eater on the planet cutting them all off.
I started experimenting with a water-flosser in the last few days too. This is the one recommended by the dentist. It's definitely an acquired knack but I only sprayed the bathroom blind once and I'm getting the hang of it. Mentally, it's still challenging as my brain thinks I'm going to blast my teeth out of my mouth - even on the lowest pressure setting. I'm sure the confidence will come with time.
End of Week 6
Not much change. I'm mastering the water-flosser! I did have my first dental nightmare last night, though. This has been a sporadic occurrence maybe two or three times a year since the accident. I also dreamed I'd spent several hundred thousand pounds on assorted blue lego bricks too, so what that says about my subconscious, I have no idea!
End of Week 7
Had my first appointment with the hygienist today. I took my water-flosser with me in case there were any issues, but I was pleased to learn that I'm doing OK and my teeth/implants/gums are all looking pretty healthy and clean. I've got some staining - probably due to black coffee - but the advice was to either not drink black coffee (not going to happen - my diet is restricted enough, already!) or to rinse my mouth with water after drinking (I can do that). But keep on using electric toothbrush with/without toothpaste as much as is comfortable, soft toothbrush on delicate bits, mouthwash (not industrial stuff - just the minty Colgate one for breath-freshness) and water-floss everywhere. I'm using roughly two fills of the water reservoir on a hand-held flosser for cleaning each time, if that helps anybody.
I also found a facebook group with interesting content. A lot of US stuff and much extolling of the virtues of Turkey, but if you sift through the junk, there are useful hints and tips - just don't be put off by all the horror stories! Remember people complain when things go wrong but rarely go online to say how great it all is.
It is good. Things are positive!
16th Feb 2023
I've lost count of the weeks now. I had a review today and I'm doing well and everything is on track for starting work on my permanent teeth at the end of March. I'm ok with that - I've got used to these plastic things that crowd my mouth and it will be weird when everything is more normal again. I'm still lisping a little and tripping over my teeth when I talk too fast!
I have to go back in a few weeks to have one of the implants uncovered. On my top arch, the one on the left isn't attached to anything at the moment and has a little cap on it, but the one on my right is buried under the gumline - deliberately, Nik tells me, as it wasn't stable enough to do anything else with at the time. So he'll just cut the gum and expose the implant ready for stage 2. I'm not worried about that as it can't be worse than I've already gone through, can it?
Picture of me doing an impression of a horse. I'd have a carrot but still way too hard and crunchy ...
18th April 2023
Today I had my final implant uncovered. On my top arch, I have 4 implants anchoring my temp teeth, the back left is out on its own and the back right was left to heal over. This afternoon, it had the bits screwed into it ready for the next stage.
Big girl pants on. No problems. After all, I sat through nearly 5 hours of surgery, didn't I - albeit with copious quantities of sedative. Then Nik tells me he has to take the top teeth out. Wait - what? Nobody mentioned that bit! It doesn't sound like a big deal, I know, but it is to me. So he starts unscrewing and everything is healed so well that bits of my gums are stuck to the temps. Owww. So he sticks a bit of local anaesthetic in and manages to get the thing out eventually. Very strange. My mouth feels collapsed and I'm scared to speak or close my jaw at all.
Good things: everything looks so perfect he calls the other dentist in to have a look. Excellent news.
Bad things: hurt like hell to get it back in again after he's cut the gum, exposed the rawlplug in my bone and screwed something into it. Torqued and screwed and I swear at one point he had both hands inside my mouth ... But there's a bit of bone in the way and he only gets it to 60% torque.
And I'm home with what feels like ferocious toothache. Next steps are impressions in 3 weeks to start making my permanent teeth. I've kind of got used to these ones nows, coffee stains and all!
22nd May 2023
So my appointment a week or so ago got cancelled as I had an attack of vertigo and didn't fancy lying with my head tilted backwards! Went in today to start the process of making my final teeth.
Firstly he took another set of photographs of my face with mouth closed, smiling and open as wide as possible. Then we had a quick look at tooth colours and agreed to make my first set of try-in teeth with colour B1. To be honest they all looked the same to me when held up against the temps I'm currently wearing - but nothing is set in stone and I can change my mind later.
He asked me lots of questions about how I feel about my temps - how they fit, what concerns I have etc. These feel like they push my lips out, but am am worried about having enough lip support up top as I know I have lost a lot of gum and bone over the past 40+ years since I had real teeth there.
Lots of gel squirted onto the bitey edges and I had to bite down for a couple of minutes which gave him an idea of how I am currently biting together. And then we got down to business. Took both sets of teeth out - eek - and screwed thingies into all the holes. I asked (asked? I think I mumbled o-o-gafs or something ...) for some photographs of this bit as I hope to one day be brave enough to look. Then a full set of impressions, after which he put everything back in again.
By the time I was up out of the chair, there was a 3D picture on the screen of what my first set of wax try-ins will look like. Much less gum than I was expecting. These will be ready in a week or so and I try them in and see how they feel. When I'm happy, the permanents get made to match.
So we're nearly six months in. I thought it would all be done much earlier, but I'm in no rush. Everything is looking good and that's the main thing.
Aaand I've had to nip back a couple of times since! Whatever mix he used to cover the tops of the screws keeps popping out! Not painful, just awkward and looks a bit strange when you've got a plastic bit sticking out of your tooth. Had it picked out and redone a couple of times. Inconvenient - but at least it's only a ten minute drive and not like a flight away to Turkey or wherever ...
So I went for a first-fitting for my real, final, permanent teeth today. At least that was what I was expecting. What I wasn't expecting was more taking of impressions and at a much more detailed level which appeared to involve constructing some kind of meccano set inside my mouth! Things screwed to implants and then more things screwed and then an impression tray over the top of that - and then he whips the whole lot out in one movement, screws and all. And I nearly had a heart-attack! Slightly less traumatic at the bottom as I had a better idea of what to expect.
Then I got to try in a prototype set of teeth. Nik said these would be 95% there, but would need some fine-tuning (hence the extra impressions taken). I opted for A1 colour and they looked lovely, although the gum colour was way too pink - but that is because these are just prototypes. And my bite feels way off with them.
But the overall FEEL. Just wow. It was like having my real teeth back again after 30+ years of partial-dentures and bridges, and six months of bulky plastic temps. I could talk properly again (I hadn't realised how much my speech had changed in temps). And I can really, truly now see the light at the end of the tunnel!
There's a good few adjustments to make and round 2 will be back end of next week. But I'm happy! :-)
29th June 2023
Round two of fitting for finals and we are almost there! Uncomfortable unscrewing/screwing but no lasting pain. I'm just nervous and I dislike the intense pressure when one side is loser than the other! But I didn't hold anybody's hand this time, so that's an improvement ...
Everything felt fantastic. The bite is better now - although I can foresee a few weeks of mouth ulcers as I keep biting my cheeks until I get used to it all. But I've done it before and it will be fine. Nik also said that the finals will be much closer to my new natural gum line, so much so that he will give me some local anaesthetic as it may be painful to fit. Yes, it will be harder to jetwash, but it ought to also be harder to get food stuck in the first place.
And here's how the final set will be constructed: a chrome frame with each ceramic tooth individually placed and hand-painted. The gum is a composite material and hand-painted too, so everything looks as natural as possible.
Next post should hopefully include the before-and-after shots and I'll finally be done!
20th July 2023
But we are here. We are finished. Just over seven months since I started this journey. My mouth feels a little sore and I'm getting used to new surfaces with my tongue. I can feel a couple of sharp edges that I might go and get smoothed and I'm due back in a few weeks for a final check and some 'after' photos. I'm not sure I want to see the 'before' photos, but I will put my big-girl pants on and post proper before/after photographs when I have them.
These teeth feel very much more like real teeth. Still no nerves - I'll never have the sensation of chewing again - but this is as good as it gets and I have no regrets. I can now eat anything, although I may start off slowly. I haven't eaten steak or French bread in over six months - and I've not bitten into an apple in over FORTY YEARS. Change indeed.
My mouth feels real again with teeth in approximately teeth shapes in approximately teeth places. It's life-changing. If you're reading this blog because you're found a link somewhere are are considering doing this, then go for it. You won't regret it (not in the UK, anyway).
7th August 2023
Final visit just to check all was well, dot any leftover is and cross any rogue ts. And that's me done, apart from quarterly hygienist visits and an annual check-up and x-ray. Here's a link to Nik's Instagram post (I hate seeing myself on camera...).
My brain is already learning new ways to eat. Even without nerves, they no longer feel so alien in my mouth and I can judge where and how hard to bite again. This was the thing that surprised me the most throughout this process - losing that ability to judge food placement. It's obvious when you think about it, but it's not something you do think about, not until it happens. But it's good. It's working and I have every confidence it will get better and in time, I'll forget these are not real teeth.
At some point I'll hopefully have some more photographs including the befores that I'm not sure I actually want to see, but I'll add them in here when I get them and you can truly see the transformation!