Real Life

Tortured by teeth

By Andrew McNulty

The wedding photographer looked over the top of his camera and frowned. "Can the mother-of-the-bride smile, please?" he asked.

I felt myself blush with shame. Even though I wanted to show how happy I was that my beautiful daughter Libby was getting married, I couldn't bear to show my terrible secret to the wedding party I had absolutely no teeth.

Feeling like I was spoiling my girl's big day, I hid in the kitchen and prepared the food instead of mingling with the guests. It was a good way to avoid meeting new people who didn't know about my condition. I didn't even know what was wrong with me, so how could I explain to others the torture I went through on a daily basis?

oy unbearable mouth pain began in october 2002, after my youngest child, Georgia was born. Her birth was difficult and I developed blood poisoning after a caesarean. It was around this time I felt agonising pain shooting through my teeth.

In desperation, I consulted a dentist, who told me I might have gum disease from the blood poisoning medication and that two of my teeth had to be removed. I was shocked and disgusted that my teeth were full of infection.

The loss of two teeth was hard, but I figured it would be better than the pain. But my suffering didn't stop. Dentists tried to work out what was wrong with me, and I began to be convinced I was going mad.

When my remaining teeth started to be affected too, I freaked out. The only thing left to do was to take my teeth out, every last one of them.

I was emotionally wrung by this heart-breaking decision. I'm not a vain person, but becoming a toothless lady in my late thirties was not easy to deal with. I felt I had no choice, though. I was in such agony that I was ready to try anything.

I had all my teeth removed in oay 2005 and again, I thought I'd be cured. It was hard to look in the mirror and see bare gums where my smile used to be. But what made it even worse was that it didn't stop hurting.

The pain returned and now it was down one side of my face as well. With no teeth, in constant pain and with my self-confidence diminishing, Libby's wedding preparations gave me a perfect excuse not to socialise. As my condition worsened, I became a hermit. I noticed that my eyes would ache and blur, making it dangerous to drive.

And the left side of my face started swelling. "It feels like someone is drilling into my jawbone through my gums," I explained to my family. "I have constant earache and I'm not sleeping more than four hours a night."

oy husband Dean was supportive, even when I cringed and pulled away from his kisses due to the pain. I was in despair. I tried to give myself some hope by planning to wear a pair of dentures at the wedding.

They arrived the day before and, as soon as I put them in, the horribly familiar pain ripped through my gums.

"You'll get used to it,"" the dentist said. But five minutes later I had to pull my car over as an unbearable, throbbing pain tore through my face and tears streamed from my eyes. I knew I would never wear them.

When I walked through the door that afternoon, Dean knew things hadn't gone as planned. He had never seen me like this in the 18 years of our marriage and felt as helpless as I did. We tried to jolly our spirits by focusing on Libby's special day.

"It will all work out," Dean said gently. Watching Libby walk up the aisle with her sisters Pam, Kayla and Georgia as bridesmaids was a dream come true. But I felt like I had let everyone down by not wearing my teeth.

I kept trying them out for small periods of time but the pain was like being smashed in the face by a baseball bat. I knew I needed answers and quickly.

I made another appointment to see a specialist and was told when I arrived at the appointment that he wasn't available because his plane had been delayed. Instead, I was to see his colleague, and it was this twist of fate that changed my life.

He listened carefully while I explained my condition. I couldn't believe it when I heard him say, "I believe you have a nerve disorder called Trigeminal Neuralgia." When he explained it to me, it was like the pieces of a puzzle falling into place. Suddenly it all made sense and I had a name for my nightmare.

But that doesn't mean it can be cured. Nobody knows what causes it or how to cure it as it's very rare. oany people who get it can't cope with the pain, which is so sad, but I am determined not to give up.

Now I know what it is, I'm on a path to getting it under control and I'm trying new pain-relief options. I am determined to wear my false teeth eventually. Even though getting my teeth out didn't help, I don't regret it because at the time I was desperate to try anything.

I won't let this condition beat me, and I know I will one day get my smile back.

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