One day they brought a feature on TV that I could very much resonate with. They were showing the plight of people of Baringo who were suffering from dental fluorosis. Brown teeth. Though I only have a faint recollection of the feature, I remember one lady’s story very well.
“Urembo anao, umbo analo lakini ni kitu kimoja tu ambacho kinamfanya akose mchumba…”
The reporter’s voice bellowed as they showed us a very beautiful woman with perfect figure. Until. Until she smiled and revealed her set of teeth. Discoloured. Brown. Her teeth were the bane of her life, the only impediment to getting a boyfriend, she said.
There’s usually that excitement when your permanent teeth start growing, right? I, like many children, watched permanent teeth fill the gaping holes left by milk teeth with so much excitement. My excitement quickly turned to sadness when I noticed that my teeth were getting discoloured. My two front teeth were particularly affected, while the rest were a pale shadow of their former colour, white.
What do you do when you notice that? You start covering your mouth when you laugh. You smile without showing your teeth. Your photos would do well without any evidence of brown teeth, you tell yourself. You are tempted to cover your mouth whenever you talk, but then you tell yourself that it would be too much work for the hand. The only time people get a glimpse of your teeth is when you talk.
Little did I know that my mum was not going to give me an easy time. There was no way she would let me cover my teeth.
“Laugh freely,” she said, “your teeth are perfect the way they are. Why are you making you complicating your life? It is not your fault that your teeth got discoloured. Don’t let people’s comments and looks make you deny yourself a chance of having a good laugh.”
And so I stopped covering my teeth. Most of the people around me in primary school had brown teeth, so I didn’t stand out. In fact, few people had white teeth. The intensity of the brown colour was different in different people. Others were lucky to have an almost invisible mark at the corner of one of their tooth, while others teeth were deeply discolored.
One day people came to talk to us about fluorosis, and what causes it. They told us that it is the water in that area that was responsible, it had high amounts of fluoride. While fluoride in itself is an important element and helps in the strengthening of teeth and bones, excessive amounts lead to discolouration of teeth, they added.
All hope was not lost though, they said. They showed us a water filter, which worked by filtering the excessive amounts of fluorine and hence made the water very good for drinking. Whoever drank the filtered water would not get fluorosis.
One pupil’s hand shot up. “What if your teeth are already discoloured? Can the filtered water help to restore the white colour?”
We all waited for the answer with hopprehension (hope and apprehension).
“Unfortunately no. The damage has already been done. However, we can prevent dental fluorosis is other people, now that we are armed with the information.”
We were disappointed, but at least we were salvaged from our ignorance.
Fast forward to high school, when I noticed that I was one of the three people in class with brown teeth. Most of the people there had white teeth. Exact opposite of primary school. Insecurities crept in again, but I reminded myself of my mother’s words. I had to love my perfect imperfections. Whenever I felt like laughing, I laughed until my last tooth was seen. After all, people only notice the difference in your teeth the first time they see you, and then they get used to it, and they don’t seem to notice it anymore.
If you have brown teeth, don’t worry. You can afford a white smile though, if you can afford it (terrible pun). If you go to a dentist, they can cover your teeth with a layer of filling (if there is any dentist reading this, forgive my utter ignorance of terminologies). They can also use other methods such as microabrasion where they scrap off a thin layer of enamel. You are spoilt for choice.
Of course there are those people who go the herbal way. The said herbalists use a mixture of herbs to scrub your teeth. Well, I hear that those people scrap off a large layer of enamel and your teeth become very sensitive. I have not heard any story first hand though, so there is a chance that the herbalists are very efficient.
You know how dentists are expected to have flawless teeth; white and perfectly arranged? There is one dentist I saw on TV who is challenging the status quo. His teeth are discoloured. Being a dentist, he obviously can afford to get his teeth whitened but he chooses not to. Isn’t that the quintessence of loving your imperfections perfectly? He inspires a lot of people. When was the last time you were treated by a dentist with brown teeth? I bet never. Unfortunately, his name escapes me but I salute him for being brave.
Let’s go back to where I started from, to the woman who claimed that she cannot get a boyfriend because of her teeth. How many people with brown teeth are married? You see how a terrible mindset can put one in perils of their own making?
Whoever has read this to the end, thank you. I hope you shed all the misconceptions you had before about brown teeth. No they are not rotten, they are just discoloured. Do not assume that people who have them do not brush their teeth. 🙂
Haha, I’ve just remembered that in high school someone asked me why I don’t use Colgate. In university too, someone told me that they thought I smoked cigarettes. I have gotten to a point where I can just laugh off these comments.
Did you know? People with fluorosis are relatively resistant to dental carries.