The high cost of dental insurance, as well as dental procedures, have caused some people to make a desperate attempt at DIY dentistry.
Kim — who has spent more than 10 years with loose teeth, painful gums and a damaged smile — is one of those people.
Kim's dental problems started when she was a child. At eight years old, she knocked out both her front teeth and had to get two root canals. One of her teeth fell out again, when Kim was 17, but she didn’t have insurance or the money to afford more than a temporary fix.
When her tooth fell out again a few years later, Kim turned to a substance known for keeping things in place, but never in your mouth: glue.
After using glue for a year to hold her teeth in place, Kim, 32, noticed a hole in her gum. But she didn’t stop using adhesives. Over the years, she has had to use ever greater amounts of glue to keep her teeth attached, and it has hardened into a large mass on her gums.
“I was really scared, but it didn’t stop me from using the glue,” Kim says. She explained that she uses her back teeth to chew and tears her food into small pieces out of fear that the next bite will cause her to reach for the glue — again.
Some glues are cyanoacrylate substances, a generic name for a family of strong, fast-acting adhesives. A study by James Cook University found cyanoacrylates can be toxic to both the neurological and respiratory systems. It may be harmful if inhaled and if ingested, it can glue your mouth shut.
Kim says her teeth are getting worse, and she has a constant burning sensation in the front of her mouth. But the pain has been more than physical. “It affects my confidence,” she says. “I find myself covering my mouth when I laugh. I don’t smile at all, except with my mouth closed. It’s like a major thing to not be able to smile.”