My TEETH Journey
Do you look at celebrities, news anchors, and influencers and think, Wow! Their teeth are perfect! It’s true, especially in the US people have incredible teeth. This is due largely to the impressive cosmetic dentistry and orthodontics offered. And, while it’s true that some people just have incredible teeth genetics, the majority of beautiful mouths you see, probably sought help.
This is my teeth journey for beautiful teeth, and just like with skincare I documented the whole experience.
My Young teeth
I can’t remember a time that I didn’t have some tooth issue. When I was 3 years old, I fell and knocked my teeth, this impact not only killed one of the 2 front teeth, but it cut the connection of my upper lip to my upper gum bed, called the Superior Labial Frenulum. These were baby teeth and in the end my permanents came in and this first incident was rectified.
When I was around 8 years old, I was swimming at my friends house, jumped backwards off the deck into the pool, but very close to the edge and my teeth hit the deck as I entered the water. This broke my right front tooth in half. To rectify my broken tooth it would get regular bonding to help build up the shape.
At 10 years old, I received braces. These were placed in the early 90’s when it was still normal to do tooth extractions to help move back an overbite. I had 4 teeth pulled, 1 from each quadrant. I had braces for 2 years plus nightly headgear. My headgear first hooked to my top teeth and then a second set hooked to my bottom teeth, this set up prevented me from closing my mouth while I slept. This headgear picture is not me at 10 years old, luckily we do not have a photo of me in it 🙂
At 12 years old I got my braces off, my overbite was corrected and I thought phew my teeth are done, Hallelujah!!!
Growing up I had, what I believe, were normal dental visits. A cavity here of there and then in would be immediately filled and sealed. My parents had 6 children, and even though they did not have dental insurance we regularly saw the dentist. This was a great gift my parents made happen, because as we all know dentistry is very costly.
What became evident around my 16th birthday was that I was constantly chipping off the bonding on my front tooth (from the pool accident), and that my fillings were being chipped away and falling out. My grinding had become noticeable and I was quickly wearing through my healthy teeth enamel and creating many opportunities for more cavities.
My dentist made me a night guard and said “its very important that you wear this every night to prevent tooth loss”. Do you think at 16 years old I took this seriously?
This is the biggest regret of my life.
I was not prepared to understand the impact of what not wearing a night guard would entail for my future self.
I graduated from High School still unaware of the natural grinding. The only constant reminder of this tissue were bits of teeth I would have in my mouth, a sore jaw, and the reality that every year we would add a little more bonding to my compromised front tooth. I moved to Hawaii for school and hoped I didn’t accidently break something during each semester.
Yes I know, my college house was right on the water! At BYU Hawaii all the beach cottages and homes specifically on The Point, had names and ours was Country Club, I didn’t name it, but we believe it was because it had this oceanfront setting plus a jacuzzi!
The waves in the winter months would actually splash on our windows and we would watch whales from this deck breach as they made their voyage between Hawaii and Alaska. This was a DREAM! But while living in paradise, having great friends, and loving school, my teeth were always on my mind.
My Friend Brie Visiting Me From France
In 2002-03 I was studying abroad at the University of Barcelona, Spain. I noticed during my months abroad that my front tooth, which was always being repaired, was darkening. It's not immediately obvious in this photo, but if you look closely you can see that my right front tooth is starting to darken.
I would email photos home, (remember we did not yet have smart phones yet and digital photography was just becoming a thing, so these years are a mix of physical photography and digital), and my brothers started calling me "Black Tooth"! It was real, my front right tooth that had been damaged so many years ago was dying.
When I came home from Spain, my mom took me to the dentist to see what could be done
The dentist gave my right tooth a root canal, bleached the inside to help with the darkness and even prepped both of my front teeth for veneers. In case you didn’t know, when you are dealing with the front teeth, you can’t do just one, you have to do them in pairs to make sure they look the same.
My NEW FRONT TEETH were beautiful, and similar to how I had felt once my braces were done, I though, phew, ok I have new front teeth, these look great and I don’t need to worry anymore.
I had one year of college remaining after Spain, so I returned to BYU Hawaii. I graduated with a Political Science and Spanish degree in December 2004, but stayed in Hawaii through 2005
In March 2005, I was in Honolulu for a St. Patricks parade and I remember in the middle of a large crowd, my bottom and top teeth collided and I chipped one of my veneers. Ugh WHY???
I was obviously upset, but as is my nature, I didn’t tell anyone and tried not to smile or bring attention to my chipped from tooth. When I got home and examined my tooth I felt a little better, was it chipped? Yes, was it significant? No. These little chips and pieces of tooth would continue to break a part over the next 16 years. This was happening because my grinding in the back had become so extensive that the height of my bite was actually shrinking. my dentist had made beautiful veneers, but they were tall, as ideal teeth should be, but the rest of my infrastructure, with regard to bite and height of teeth, was crumbling and so the extra length that my veneers originally had would be ground down, by “yours truly” every night, until my veneers matched my shorter flanking teeth.
My Adult teeth
After graduating from BYU Hawaii I was waitlisted at BYU Provo Law School for Fall 2005, so I moved to Provo, Utah that summer to see if I would be offered a seat. During this waiting period I was employed in the advertising department of the Daily Herald newspaper. This is where I met Jason. I was not accepted into BYU Law, so I continued working and Jason and I began dating which would lead to marriage in the Sacramento LDS Temple on May 5, 2007.
While working at the Newspaper I had dental insurance which was a huge blessing because, as a young adult I was able to afford dental care, which we probably all agree at this point I need constantly. Jason’s teeth have always been gorgeous and he used bleaching trays from his dentist, so during a cleaning I decided to get bleaching trays made so that my teeth could be brighter for our upcoming wedding.
That Friday night, after cleaning (where nothing was found for repair) I used my new bleaching trays. I had used over the counter strips and brightening tooth pastes but always found them irritating to my gums and very irritating to my worn down teeth. Excited to get my teeth at least as white as Jason’s, knowing my smile would never compare to his beautiful full size teeth, I placed the trays in. At this time, I can’t remember if these bleaching trays I slept in or were just trays used for a timed session, nevertheless they did cause a lot of traumatic nerve pain, to the point that my left lower incisor abscessed that weekend and had to be root canal’d the following weekend.
After our wedding in 2007, we moved from Utah to California. We bought our first home together, and by 2008 Emmitt was born, and in 2009 Turner joined our young family. During this period of time I am still grinding, having nightmares of breaking my teeth, and waking up to tooth dust in my mouth. By this time I also have a couple crowns in the back. These were added periodically after multiple fillings had failed and were chipped, to the point that lots of decay had begun in these little tooth fissures.
My back crowns started to abscess and so they were both root canal'd. And the very expensive Zirconia Crowns started to replace my sad worn down teeth. Have you ever seen in some dental offices they will have a porcelain crown machine that can spit out crowns on the spot? I am not a candidate for those. Nope all of mine need to be made in a lab with Zirconium.
“Zirconium is a very strong substance that can endure wear and tear of everyday use and withstand the biting pressure of the front teeth as well as the back teeth grinding. When looking at zirconium crowns from an aesthetic point it is clear and very similar to a natural tooth and reflects light the same way. This may be important if you new crowns are on the front of your mouth and it is particularly relevant in cases where the crown will be seen next to the natural teeth.
Porcelain is the traditional material used for new crowns. Full porcelain however may chip or break. This is overcome by making the crowns from metal, in this case the metal being zirconia, then fusing porcelain to the outside. The zirconia metal provides the strenght whilst the porcelain provides the outward appearance on a normal tooth. Zirconium crowns allow light to pass through as with a normal tooth giving a natural look, unlike other metal cores which block the light”
In general, the cost of dental work varies by geographic location, which is why many now travel to Mexico and Turkey to get dental work accomplished at a lower price. Regular cowns range from $800 to $1500 in the US. Zirconia crowns are more than other materials such as, ceramic, metal and porcelain; ranging from $1000 to $2500.
I remember being told that I needed to replace 4 teeth and that it was going to be $8000. We did not have money like that and further, this $8000 would be spent on teeth that I would never see.
It was 2013, I now had 3 babies and I’m pregnant with Stewart, we do not have nay extra money. It feels like yesterday, I would be at Target buying diapers, food, and household items and I wasn’t sure if my bank card would be declined. We were still paying off the hospital stays from back to back births and I couldn’t imagine how we would ever fix my teeth.
I told my then HMO dentist, we can’t afford this how do I do one crown, let along multiple? They gave me a deal for one Zirconia crown for $1500, my plan was to do one per year for the next 4 years. Later that year after doing my 1 very expensive crown in the Spring of 2014, I was in for a routine cleaning; mind you this first crown was root canal’d but it felt sensitive. During this visit the hygienist called out a “10” when she probed this crowned tooth.
My beautiful, expensive, less than one year old Zirconia crown, would need to be removed and it would not be savable. Without knowing the exact cause, it was determined that my root had cracked all the way down. When a tooth is root canal'd one major downside is that it no longer gets any blood supply or nutrition, it is dead. Because it is no longer living the roots can become brittle, and if you clench, grind and put stress on these roots they can split
Further, this back tooth would need to be extracted and the only solution if I wanted a back tooth would be an implant and a new Zirconia Crown.
A dental implant with a new crown is roughly $5000. My sister, Kortney is a dental hygenist, I called her as I was leaving this very disappointing appointment, I asked her, what are my other options, she said “no, that pocket is deep, the tooth is failing and at this point the pocket is too deep to correct” I was devastated. Not only is it a money thing, but it is also a time thing. I literally have four babies, 1 is a nursing newborn, and the others are toddlers. Making these appointments and attempting to schedule this was daunting and I felt very low. I honestly thought, it’s okay I don’t need a tooth back there.
I told my sister I was just going to get it extracted and not worry about that lower back corner anymore; instead I would put money towards my other 3 teeth that, remember, still need to be crowned. She said, “No, you have to do the implant, even if you can’t get the crown, because the implant will prevent bone loss and jaw shrinkage. Ugh… Jason and I decided we would do the $3000 implant in order to save jaw bone so that if we could ever crown it, we had that option.
The implant process:
First, the oral surgeon extracts the broken tooth. Once my crown was popped off, my back tooth basically just fell out in pieces, it was brittle, old, broke, and was not a candidate for any long term structure.
They drew my blood right when I arrived, it was centrifuged so that we could use my own growth factors. This plasma was then mixed with a powder that would be packed down into the gapping hole where I once had a tooth. The area is then sutured and I returned for a check up a month later to see how it was healing.
You have to wait about 3 months between the time of extraction to the time when the implant screw can be set in place. Then this implant, that does not have a crown on it, is capped with a flat metal disk. If money was not an issue you would then wait another 3 to 6 months to make sure the implant has fused to you jaw bone and then a crown can be made and placed on top.
During the Fall of 2014, I get my implant. This concides with my dental office switch from the rough HMO dental situation we were trying to make work to Dr. Clark. He is a premium dental office, but I was beginning to realize that at the age of 32 I might quickly lose all of my teeth, and although, my then teeth were nothing to be proud of, teeth are essential and I feared I would have dentures by the age of 40.
In 2015, Dr. Clark made and placed my Zirconia Crown on my now fused implant.
Full mouth reconstruction
When I came to Dr. Clark, we looked at all my teeth; every single one of my teeth, either had been root canal’d, was crowned, or a new crown or implant. That’s right, my other back tooth that I was never able to crown 3 years previously was now lost, it would need to be extracted, implanted, and crowned. When we looked at my whole mouth, rather than a single tooth, it was clear that previous work that had been done was now failing (not the fault of the practitioner, just the reality of my fierce grinding) and would need to be redone. We could piecemeal it, and spend $40K over time while at the end, still not having a beautiful smile, or we could embark on a full mouth reconstruction, that would take place all at one.
Again, I still do not have money.
The fact that we are even talking about this concept feels so far reaching
The first step, I commit at 33 years old I will wear a night guard. A light bulb finally went on for me Dr. Clark said “it’s your grinding… you are losing teeth and will continue to lose teeth because of your grinding… why would you spend any more money in your mouth if you won’t commit to a night guard?” He was absolutely right, what had I been doing all these years? Why weren’t all previous dentists’ this frank?
Ever since I made the commitment that I would wear my night guard; with the goal of slowing deterioration to save any remaining enamel; I have been religious. Today, I don’t feel comfortable without the safety net of my night guard. This apparatus takes down my anxiety and I sleep better because I am not afraid I will break another tooth.
Over the past 5 years, Dr. Clark and I had this full mouth reconstruction in mind. We used this future procedure as a guide on what would or wouldn’t be done. We decided to not crown anymore teeth; we would wait until we could crown them all simultaneously so I could have a more open bite in the back and taller teeth in the front. It would all need to be done one at a tiem.
Night Guard Revelation
As the years past, I was not sure when we do this massive costly procedure, but I felt hopeful, and I was blessed that everything held tight and no further tooth failures occurred. The mouth guard mode made the difference. If any of this story sounds familiar for you and you are still not in a night guard, STOP EVERYTHING, make your appointment for a real lab made night guard, yes it will be $300 but it will be the best money you will ever spend. While you are waiting for your appointment get an over the counter guard that you can mold at home, they are not as comfortable but this will prevent any further loss of enamel until you get your real night guard.
If you have beautiful teeth, you might consider getting a night guard to preserve their length. We will all grind and take down our teeth as we age, not everyone is as drastic as my situation, but it is still happening over time. Seriously, get yourself a night guard and save your beautiful teeth.
Fall 2019 invisalign
How did I ever feel confident in the Fall of 2019 to embark on this massive procedure? In the summer of 2018, I started my YouTube Channel Natural Kaos. I had no idea if my channel would ever be successful or frankly, how people even make money on YouTube, but I was excited about this new outlet. In the back of my mind I was hopeful that maybe in 5 years from my channel I could save enough to make my dream mouth a reality.
Thank you to each and every one of you reading this text. You are the reason that in 1 year of launching my channel, I felt confident we would have enough money for my full mouth rebuild
During one of our meetings with Dr. Clark about this rebuild, he brought up the idea that if we are going to do this, let’s get the best results possible. My then bite was very narrow, and in order to widen the bite and make room for larger teeth which would be more visually appealing, I should go back into orthodontics.
I made the appointment with Dr. Hoyjberg with the plan to do Invisalign lite. It is 16 trays and would take me nearly a year to complete, this was made even a bit longer as COVID hit in 2020. I filmed all of my appointments at Dr. Hoyjberg’s office and it documents the Invisalign process. Dr. Clark and Dr. Hoyjberg worked together to create the ideal width and spacing for my future crowns.
In October 2020, I completed Invisalign and headed back to Dr. Clark to set the schedule for all of the appointments and steps that would be required for this rebuild. He first lasered my gum line arches to make them a perfect scallop. Then a month later I returned on November 5, 2020 for a full day of grinding and prepping my teeth, this day we also set the new implant for the back lower tooth. Ray came with me and filmed the whole experinece. On this day I was given a very nice set of temporaries that looked incredible, perhaps a bit bulky, but honestly a night and day difference. At this point I would need to wait a month for all of my Zirconium Crowns to be made. I returned on Friday, December 11 for my real teeth. I will get the last crown set in a few months once the lower back implant fuses to my bone.
It’s honestly amazing to me me just writing this whole sage down. It has been an inspiring walk down memory lane for me as I write this. If you are suffering and are embarrassed, please know that I understand your pain. I hope my journey gives you encouragement and you don’t give up.
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