A Meath man can smile with confidence again after having 27 of his decayed teeth - which had rotted because of an addiction to fizzy drinks - surgically removed by a concerned dentist last week, writes Louise Walsh.
Michael Sheridan (32) from Ashbourne has been in constant pain for much of the last decade and has lived on a diet of yoghurt, Weetabix and soup, as even biting into a sandwich left him in excruciating pain.
He attributes his rotten teeth to his six litre plus a day addiction to fizzy drinks.
**Note to readers: Pictures below of Michael's rotten teeth
Navan dentist Dr. David Murnaghan, who met Michael through a shared interest in water polo was so concerned about Michael’s oral health that he offered to take on the mammoth task and waive the normal costs of up to €50,000 for implant treatment.
Dr Murnaghan of Boyne Dental & Implant Clinic said: "I knew Michael through water polo but didn’t know him well enough to talk to him about his teeth.
"It was only during a car-share trip to Galway that the subject came up and I told Michael to come and see me for a proper consultation.
"I knew his teeth meant a serious threat to his health. He couldn’t chew his food properly, he couldn’t bite into a sandwich like most people and he is in pain every day.
"The Government is not pushing that side of health education currently, it’s more about alcohol and smoking, but oral health is very, very important and many Irish people don’t go to the dentist enough for regular checks."
However it took almost a year for Michael to pick up the confidence to arrange that appointment, which finally took place last November.
Michael had finally taken life-changing steps to a health problem he had worked hard to hide for nearly a decade.
"I used to keep my teeth hidden and talk as little as possible to people. If I was out with friends, I’d sit further back when talking because I was conscious of my bad breath," he said
"The kids in the family started noticing my teeth so I went back into my shell even further.
"I would eat soup, yoghurt and Weetabix every week. Sometimes I wouldn’t sleep because of the pain and if I went out for a meal with my partner Linda, I’d have pain straight away.
However Michael could survive on just one meal a day because his appetite was suppressed by the copious amounts of fizzy drinks that he was consuming.
"I was addicted to them. I’d drink six litres or more a day - whatever I could get my hands on. I always had a bottle of minerals in my hand.
Although he taught himself to talk and smile without showing his teeth, Michael’s self-confidence took such a knock that he wouldn’t even apply for promotion at the Aviva Stadium where he works as a kitchen porter.
"I’m in a job now where I’m working for a good boss that if someone deserves a promotion, he will give it. There’s plenty of room for promotion but I’ve never put my name forward for them because the next step in my job is meeting clients and even though I’ve never been turned down for a promotion, if you look at my teeth, who’d want me to be the face of that company."
Michael who has three children, finally took the steps to see David as he is due to get married next New Year’s Eve and wanted to be able to smile confidently in the photographs.
"I knew if I went to a dentist that I’d have to stop drinking fizzy drinks and I didn’t want to do that before. I also knew that all my teeth would have to come out and I couldn’t afford that financially."
However, with the help of David and his colleagues, Michael didn’t have to worry about the cost and had all 27 teeth surgically removed in one sitting at Boyne Dental & Implant Clinic last week.
"I was two hours in the chair under local anesthetic. It was uncomfortable but not that painful. I’ve been walking around in constant pain for ten years, so this was nothing," he said.
After the procedure, David inserted dentures to give Michael’s gums time to heal and in April, he will return to get twelve implants inserted into his jawbone. Bridges will also be attached to these to give Michael his new permanent smile.
Michael also understands that one condition that Dr Murnaghan presented prior to taking on this project was that Michael had to ditch fizzy drinks for good.
He hasn’t had a fizzy drink since just before the surgery and will soon meet with a nutritionist and psychologist recommended by Dr Murnaghan to help him on this stage of the journey.
"Linda and my whole family are delighted. I’m delighted and it’s all down to David and his staff at Boyne Dental & Implant Clinic to whom I say a huge thanks.
"I keep looking at myself in the mirror and can’t believe it’s me. I used to go shopping with my head down and get through the supermarket as fast as I could.
"I’m not walking around with my head down anymore. I see that people haven’t just got feet. I can hold my head up now and look at their faces and smile."
"I can go back to being me instead of being that person hiding away. I can have a face again."
Michael decided to go public with his story to let others know of the dangers of neglect and sugar to your teeth and also to say that it’s never too late to change.
Boyne Dental & Implant Clinic has also sent Michael’s story to Health Minister Simon Harris in an effort to raise awareness of the importance or oral health to overall well-being and hopefully get the issue highlighted on a national health agenda.