Dental shame
March 25, 2017 4:36 AM   Subscribe

For reasons, I lost my 4 front teeth in my early teens. My parents couldn't afford much in the way of fixing this. The dentist very kindly built me a "flipper"; what was supposed to be a temporary piece until something more appropriate could be acquired. Jump to now, 44 years later, and I am still wearing same flipper. I looked into dental implants, but the cost is not in my means. My dentist worked out a way to make me a better partial, at a reasonable cost. Unlike the flipper, which no one could tell wasn't my real teeth, the new device has some visible wires.

It's going to give me a more secure bite, better oral health and I am happy about that. But, my question is, is there something I can apply to the section of wire that is going to show? I talked to the dentist, but the tooth colored wires are not as strong, and fall under cosmetic rather than necessary, and only the silver wire comes with a guarantee.

My partner, most of my family and even my children do not know about my teeth. I would like this to continue. Something nontoxic, that I could paint on? I don't mind having to do this repeatedly. He's going to modify the wire a bit, so this is less than a quarter inch of bright silver that I want to hide. It shows when I smile, and I smile a lot. Please, any ideas?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Oh man. Teeth stuff is so hard and my heart goes out to you. I knocked out my front teeth about 3.5 years ago, and while I was incredibly fortunate to eventually end up with a good-as-new smile, the months of healing and visible wires were dreadful. Send me a MeMail of you ever need to talk.

My first thought when I read your question was Sugru but I see that they discourage using their product in dental appliances because it could irritate the inside of your mouth. I wonder if your dentist might be able to hide the wire with a touch of Sugru, and then seal it with a dental-safe product so it doesn't come into direct contact with your skin. Might be worth bringing up at your next appointment.

IANADentist, IANADoctor, and IANAHazMatExpert. Just someone who gets how much this stuff matters.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 5:54 AM on March 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

I doubt it's an officially sanctioned use but bunch of the reviews for Instamorph are from people who have used it to make their own flippers. If you do any modifications yourself, be careful you don't do something that voids the guarantee. Congratulations on the new teeth!
posted by yeahlikethat at 8:25 AM on March 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

Is it that piece of wire that looks like a paper clip? For what it's worth, I don't think most people know to connect that with missing teeth. If you have already been fitted with it I'd suggest the first route of going to your dentist and saying, "This is what happens when I speak and smile; this is what happens when I laugh." That is what my dentist has done when weighing utility versus appearance. It sounds like they are already somewhat aware you are not comfortable with the degree of visibility but they are not completely aware-- in their defense, a lot of people would simply not care. (I'm having work done and have had to explain my level of concern about stuff affecting my speech.)
posted by BibiRose at 8:51 AM on March 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm sure you've already thought of this, but anything you put on to hide the silver will cause a slight bump. My suggestion (if possible) is to talk to the lab that created them. They're the most likely to be able to hide/obscure it, and colour match. The lab my dentist uses is open to "after market upgrade" requests from patients, and the cost is reasonable. I've chipped a few of my falsies, and had them re- enameled.
(From a life-long Epileptic)
posted by whowearsthepants at 10:32 AM on March 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

My Dad knocked out those teeth this in his mid 20s in a motorcycle wreck. He wore a bridge for decades that was totally invisible, it is certainly possible to make one. If cost is the major issue preventing you from getting such a bridge I'd recommend going abroad. Having said that, keep your flipper as new bridges and inserts are notoriously hard to get just right on fit and you might be glad you have it as the new piece goes back for tweaks.

Btw, he did eventually get implants and he hates them, they've been a giant pita plus he had to go with no front teeth at all for months while the base things healed. Having had no teeth for so long the bone receeded and he doesn't even know how long they will last. So you might have dodged a bullet there.
posted by fshgrl at 11:37 AM on March 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

Just as a data piece, many of my adult friends have orthodontic work in progress, so although it may feel like OMG I have metal wire showing!, be assured that I don't even notice it in a smile. If someone comments, its perfectly fine to brush it off as 'gotta keep the teeth straight!'. But honestly, so many people have something other than natural teeth in their mouth, it's not something to be ashamed or worried about. Congrats on the new teeth!
posted by Northbysomewhatcrazy at 11:47 AM on March 25, 2017 [7 favorites]

I don't know how far you are along with this plan but have you considered medical tourism? This seems like a good case for it and you might be able to get a much better quality solution for an affordable price in other country.
posted by metahawk at 2:27 PM on March 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

I worked with a woman who had one of those. I could see a flash of metal at the base of one of her teeth, but I had no idea what it was just from but I could see from outside her mouth. I thought it was just a filling or something. It was only after years of knowing her that she happened to mention what it was in a conversation. So, while they may see a tiny bit of something non-tooth-colored, I don't think it necessarily follows but they'll connect it to missing teeth.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 4:02 PM on March 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

Ok, this pulls back the curtain, and it's probably time. I was going to reply anonymously, and decided not to.

I love you all. I have been so ashamed of my teeth all my life. You all have been so kind, especially schroedingersgirl. I have never had anyone to talk about this with, and have had nightmares for years about breaking my flipper, or having it fall out, to the point of not doing things that would be fun and life enriching.

You've all given me great ideas. I'm going to talk to my dentist, and see if there's a way to just make the wire not quite so shiny. And when (if) people ask, I'll tell them what it is. Ironically, my partner is having issues with his back teeth, and I want to talk to him about looking at a partial, rather than having all his teeth pulled.

You give me courage. I read these responses late last night, and can't express the gratitude I feel. I'm still scared of what people will think, but I also suspect that this is MY 800 lb. Gorilla, and hopefully it'll just be a blip on everyone else's radar.

I marked you all as favorite, and again, you have my heartfelt thanks!
posted by LaBellaStella at 4:03 AM on March 26, 2017 [25 favorites]

My immediate thought when I see something like that is just that it's a permanent sort of retainer. I've dated folks with these and it wasn't at all off-putting. Orthodontics are so expensive that it's often worth visible wires to keep teeth aligned. So if it makes you feel better, I'd never think it meant you were missing your teeth.
posted by fiercecupcake at 8:05 AM on March 27, 2017

There are absolutely alternative ways to do this without visible clasps. There are labs that specialize in tooth colored or gum colored clasps, there are ways to gain retention without violating the aesthetic zone.
Perhaps your dentist does not do these types of partials routinely, but you might be able to find one who does. It will cost more than a flipper, maybe a bit more than a traditional removable partial, but less than fixed bridgework or implants.
I am a dentist and you (and you labella) can PM me if you want other nonbinding advice (since IANYD)

posted by OHenryPacey at 11:32 AM on March 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

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