Most people aren’t any more excited about going to the dentist than about going to the physician. While most can live with some anxiety about dental visits, others like 48-year-old Angie Barlow in the UK, find it terrifying. Barlow’s dental phobia is so severe that a decade ago she performed do-it-yourself dentistry by supergluing her broken teeth, according to the BBC documentary “The Truth About Your Teeth.”
“I’ve always been scared of the dentist because my mum died at 34 from throat cancer,” Barlow said. “She had a tooth out, and that’s how they found she had cancer. That fear has always been in the back of my mind. You just get your mindset and you think, you ‘don’t go.’ You don’t make that phone call.”
Dental anxiety and phobia are extremely common, with nine to 15 percent of Americans (30 to 40 million people) admitting they avoid visiting the dentist because of fear and anxiety. However, anxiety and phobia should not be used interchangeably. Dental phobia is a more serious condition that’s associated with an intense fear or dread, similar to Barlow’s experience.
While her dental phobia contributed to her poor oral health, smoking ruined Barlow’s teeth, damaging them and leading them to fall out often. “When the tooth comes out, I just put a little bit of glue and try and hold it in place to keep it…so I don’t have a gap in my teeth. I used glue on the top of the tooth, and then I put it back in place until the glue is set,” said Barlow before the surgery.
Over the course of a decade, the toxic chemicals in the superglue led her to lose 90 percent of the bone supporting her teeth in the upper jaw. Barlow used her life’s savings to receive emergency dental surgery, where 11 of her top teeth were extracted and six titanium screws were inserted into her jaw with 12 new teeth permanently attached. This helped restore her smile.
Dr. Kalesh Salenki, Barlow’s dental surgeon, was surprised to see Barlow pull out her front teeth completed with a superglue filler. “Really that’s a denture. She’s made herself a denture out of superglue, calculus … just having that out her mouth is going to make her mouth feel so much better,” he said, The Mirror reported.
Others like Serpil Djemal, a dental consultant at King’s College Hospital, share the same sentiment. Djemal said the case of DIY dentistry was one of the worst she had ever seen. “We certainly have our fair share of problems with teeth in the UK,” Djemal said in the video.
Barlow says she’s gained a new sense of self-confidence and no longer feels ashamed of her appearance. “Wonderful isn’t it, I feel amazing, and there’s no hands over my mouth or embarrassment, and the difference people have said in me, noticed in me, my friends, things like that, they’re just like, oh my God, you’re more outgoing,” she said.