Man who was too scared to go to the dentist for 27 years shares his story after having his jaw removed

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A man who was too scared to go to the dentist for 27 years has shared his story after having his jaw removed. 

Darren Wilkinson, 51, hadn’t been to see a dentist in almost 30 years when he finally plucked up the courage to seek help last year. Darren took the decision after he started noticing blood on his pillow when he woke up in the mornings. After booking a check-up, Darren’s dentist ordered an X-ray and he was referred to hospital for further tests when it showed a sizeable black hole in the centre of the face. Having undergone additional tests, Darren was diagnosed with a rare, benign tumour, known as ameloblastoma.

Darren, a support worker, was informed that he would need surgery to remove the tumour, as there is a risk of ameloblastomas spreading. The procedure was scheduled for March, but due to the COVID-19 outbreak, it was postponed until April. Surgeons removed 90% of the lower jaw and most of the teeth. The missing jaw tissue has been replaced using titanium plates, and doctors are hoping that the metal frame will encourage bone regrowth. There are also plans to graft bone tissue from the leg to rebuild the jaw.

After surgery, Darren was fed through a tube, which was inserted into the nose and directed to the stomach, for 3 months. He is now using a PEG feeding tube, but his recovery has suffered setbacks, including a major scare when he developed sepsis a week after the procedure. 

Darren’s wife, Mel, said that she had been trying to get him to register with a local dental practice for years, but he refused because he was too scared to make an appointment. He had a very traumatic experience having teeth removed earlier in this life, and he was terrified to go back to the dentist. Dentophobia affects around 6% of the UK population.

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