Where do I even begin to explain to you my torment with teeth? What's the best way to recap my teeth experience? I guess the beginning...
I didn't realize I hated my teeth until middle school. I think for most kids growing up, their insecurities develop in those trying years. Before my first year was up, I had mastered the iconic "Resting Bitch Face" like a pro, was able to "smile" with just the flick of the corners of my mouth, but making sure I never showed any teeth. It was a lot easier to do, considering my teeth alone took FOREVER TO GROW IN!!! I legit looked like a rabbit of some sort; two large front teeth with nothing on the sides except molars. Sure looking back at pictures at family function it was endearing and cute to see. Although my family always made me feel comfortable and sure you caught a smile here or there, school was just a battle field of insults from kids. By the end of my first year of middle school, my parents saved up some money to get me braces! I'm number three out of four and for me this was one hell of a luxury, I was stoked! I now had a reason to laugh at the cool kids that made fun of me, because by the time I got to high school I knew I would have a killer smile.
Fast forward the last six months of my treatment, I'm now a sophmore in highschool. The insults were less, and I had zero energy to care about having nice teeth. My teeth finally grew in (I still had missing teeth till sophmore year), but not only were they tiny, my gum tissue seem to have "grown" as I compared old pictures. It was abnormal the amount of tissue I had in my opinion. Along with the fact that, although I would wear my 'rubber bands', my bite never adjusted. I can't tell you how many times my orthodontist would yell at me!!! Yell at my parents, and anyone near by. I wore those suckers ALL DAY LONG looking like a vampire for those four plus years! Till one day he said, "nothing is working, your jaw isn't going anywhere, all I can suggest is gum surgery and we end treatment with a retainer". My teeth at the time were as straight as they ever were going to be and I met with the doctor that they recommended "gum surgery"...
Let's just say it was the epitome of physical trauma I have ever experienced in my life. It's not what it is today. Sitting in a chair for three and half hours as I receive the worst shots (the roof of my mouth was KILLER) ever, and with tiny little blades they hacked off my gums to lengthen and expose my teeth. Mind you that was only the top part of my mouth, two weeks later I came in to do my bottom. So a total of 6 hours and change of torture while these ladies talked about whether her " stale boyfriend" was going to propose or not. Those were their words, not mine. I'm not even going to mention these doctors names of my past because they are no longer working, nor did their jobs on my mouth have a lasting one. As my gums healed, and they healed slowly, I finally got my braces off!
I remember the moment perfectly because it was a week before my first high school homecoming dance. After seeing the end result I was happy and accepted that this was as perfect as they were going to get and that I probably would never ever step foot in any mouth related doctors unless it was an emergency.
As I finished up college and began working in theatre professionally, I knew I was gonna kick myself in the ass for having the itch to do film. You see during the four years.... well "ahem" four years and a semester, my mother kept telling me that I needed to fix my teeth if I was going to stay in this profession. I fought her for so long with the argument that I didn't need perfect teeth for stage. Pppfffffftttt it's true, you really don't, but she knew I wasn't going to remain on stage. A couple years out of college, signed with a talent manager it was time... the only thing that had been stopping me was FEAR. Word of advice, don't let fear stop you from moving forward in anything in life. DON'T LIVE IN FEAR.
PLAN OF ACTION
I wanted to Improve the size of my teeth, gums, and general appearance of my smile.
I thought I could get away with some gum contouring and then popping on some veneers on just the two tiny lateral teeth, I didn't want to go through any serious work, but when your Periodontist (Dr.Lamas) says NO to a quick fix, even as minor as dental work, it's for good reason...
Braces , jaw surgery, gum surgery, bleaching, veneers...
Did anyone flinch when they read jaw surgery? Well because for the first time ever I was told I have Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, aka T.M.J. you know that thing you or your friends have said "lock jaw", "popping of the jaw". Oh and it doesn't stop there, I also have an extreme over bite/open bite. The best way to describe that is when I bite down, my top and bottom teeth don't meet. I always have an open smile. Apparently my lower jaw didn't continue to develop( hmmm.. still waiting for my chest to develop too). Somehow in my younger years it just stopped. My teeth took forever to come in, was that a sign? You would hope my previous doctors in my teen years would have told me that or NOTICED!!! The worst thing is there was only TWO WAYS TO FIX THIS.
Frankenstien braces or jaw surgery. Truly the jaw surgery fixes it completely, and the braces, that are a special kind of brace, get really "close" or fixed. If I were still in school FOR SURE I would opt for the braces, but since I was already working (on camera & stage), the second option seemed "better".
This type of jaw surgery would take time to approach. Before you get surgery, you want your teeth to be straight. So Dr. Corro, a man that specializes in these open bites and works side by side with " Facial Maxilar Surgeon Specialist & Plastic Surgeon" Dr. Garri became part of my dental crew. Dr. Garri removed my wisdom teeth ( I was put to sleep, 15 minutes tops, and recovered easy peasy). Next Dr. Corro prepped me with invisalign!!! Yes invisalign the clear and less painful way to straighten, in my opinion. The jaw surgery though would require not just cutting and screwing the bottom jaw, but also the roof of my mouth as well. Some get lucky with just one alignment, I got LUCKY WITH BOTH needing to be corrected for this to succeed.
In between all this Lamas & Corro recomended dentist, Dr. Faustino Garcia, for some temporary "clip-ons", aka "flippers", " FAKE TEETH". In order for me to book jobs, I needed something in the mean time to pass off a "full smile". So for my two small laterals, I clipped on faked teeth. They became my babies. I filmed a whole web series with them on, and managed not to swallow them during a scene where I had to eat. LOL
Fast forward 2 plus years, every case is different by the way, some take less time, some take more. I did procrastinate on my visits as I got closer to the last few trays before surgery. I WAS SCARED. You see although I have an open bite and T.M.J. I don't suffer from chronic pain, nor do I have a visible physical abnormalities i.e. cheek bones, mouth, jaw line etc. So I met with Dr. Garri, and I told him my fears and that if I decided to go through with it later on in life, could I? If it were to pose a threat on my health, then how long can I wait. He was honest and he said whenever you like, stay healthy. I have that luxury of waiting, some may not. The younger you are the faster you will recover. I'm 27 years old, signs of pain with this particular issue would already be showing. So I'm deferring this surgery until it's an issue. Let pray it wont be.
Ok, I'm at the end-ish of invialign... Next up the cosmetics portion!!!!! AKA the fun stuff.
Time to circle back to the awesome Dr. Lamas, and before I put on veneers to give my teeth a bigger appearance I need more surface area! Here I was giving the green light for gum surgery, yet again. Except this was a spa version of what I remembered. I had my consultation, took pictures, and got all my meds in order. They specialize in SEDATION!!!!!!! PRAISE JESUS, he knew I needed a doctor like this! I was given a tiny blue pill to take an hour before. I felt like I was walking in quick sand with how heavy my legs were. It did it's job of relaxing me, well as best it could ( I mean I still cry for everything mouth related), but next thing I know, I'm in the chair with a warm blanket. He then draws blood. This blood is then churned to get the plasma, and injected into the surgical site. This process helps you heal WAAAAAAAYYY faster. He then proceeded to start an I.V. where I drifted off. While I was out for 3 hours, he sculpted away with my gums and even my bone. They used laser and everything. My gum and bone underneath protruded out and with a slant, he adjusted all that. ALL THAT! TOP AND BOTTOM! ONE STOP SHOP!!!! The recovery was nothing compared to my past experience. I had some tenderness, and swelling and by week two I was comfortable smiling. I still had some sutures, and my cheeks were chunky but I didn't care! The sutures were along the gum line, which for me now were way higher than I even thought possible! I could smile and I saw TEETH. I saw teeth the moment I woke up from surgery ( I cried tears of joy in a drugged state), and everyday I saw more. The color of my gums were turning a beautiful pink. I was finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel...
To not damage my gum tissue, I waited 8 weeks before I came back to my dentist, Dr. Garcia. His wife, her smile is amazing and it's the first thing you notice when you meet her, she handles the bleaching. First I did a gel whitening treatment in trays, and then the light/laser bleaching. For me I had medical stains from antibiotics in the past and coffee. So the gel lifted a lot of shades off, and the laser brightened. If you aren't happy with your shade, and want to go whiter they will work with you. I opted for white but not glow in the dark. Due to my low setting nerves in my teeth ( I found this out in my x-rays) I have SENSITIVE teeth. So I experienced something called " Zingers".It does what it's called, zings you. Anyone can get them. Not much you can do, just wait it out. Mine were gone after 24 hours.
*I'm totally going to regret putting this picture up smh.
Below is a comparison of shades, during gum surgery they did have a cleaning and a polish so some stains were removed, but the rest were safely removed with the trays and in office light laser treatment.
Comparing full gums to post surgery w/whitening:
Guess what comes next? Veneers process, the final process!!!
STAY TUNED, second portion (and much shorter portion) will be available next week. In the mean time here is all the contact information of my dental crew in Miami! If you are out of town, but need a referral for doctors in your city (this community of specialist is very small, ask them for their advice! Also you can save the contact info pic below)...
IT TAKES A VILLAGE
I hope this has been helpful thus far...