When you meet someone, you smile and shake their hand. For me, I was always acutely aware of HOW I smiled. People are blessed with 32 adult teeth to make their perfect smile. Most of us have 4 of those jerks yanked that never seem to grow in right in the back and are down to 28. I was born with 31 adult teeth. I was missing a lateral incisor. Funny thing is, when my mom was a kid, she was hit by a car and lost a lateral incisor, and I’m not a scientist, and I know this isn’t how genetics works, but I was missing that same darn tooth. And that jerk of a tooth is right in the front of my face.
My jobs have always been about talking to strangers, face to face, and presenting my best self. I am a confident person, but I lacked a confident smile my whole life. The missing tooth also meant weird spacing of other teeth and a smile that made me feel less than. I have come to realize that often other people didn’t even notice the missing tooth or gap, but I did. So I did something about it, for me.
I went to a new dentist (Dr. Faith Aboona, DDS) for my regular cleaning and she asked me if I had ever considered having them fixed, and I had. I had considered it a lot and always said if I ever had anything cosmetic done, it would be my teeth. I kind of grabbed the bull by the horns and just decided the time was NOW. We started scheduling and got the ball rolling.
Now, I know this isn’t uncommon, but I am not a huge fan of the dentist. If you tell me you love going to the dentist, I’m going to call you a liar or a poser or something because that is crazy. My mom worked for a dentist when I was a kid, and they had to put notes in my chart reminding my parents not to feed me before appointments, because I would inevitably throw up when they reached the back of my mouth. I am NOT a good dental patient and clearly never have been. The lights are so bright in your eyes, the scratchy paper bib to catch all that drooling you’ll be doing on yourself, the horrible noises, and the expectation of answering questions with your mouth propped open and people’s hands in there is utterly ridiculous to me. I cannot answer you without biting you. Please don’t make me bite you. AND the FEAR. The fear that some dentist or hygienist is going to tell me I’m terrible at caring for my teeth and JUDGE me. For the record, I do not know that I have ever been judged at the dentist, and have serious doubts that I actually have, but fear is nothing if not unsubstantiated. I never said it was rational.
So here I was, committing to a 6 week process of dental work. Why would I do that to myself? I am still not 100% sure. But I did it. We did the yucky impressions, that taste awful and make you gag because the tray feels like it’s bigger than your whole face. And then it turns to sticky mud that while it’s in your mouth feels like it might turn to cement and never come out and then you’ll be a tray face forever. But it came out. No tray face to explain to my children. Then on to the waiting for the model, and then the real work began.
It was mostly done in one sitting and it was actually far less horrifying than I thought it
would be. I left the office that day swollen and numb with some gorgeous new temporaries. They felt like weird hardened cardboard and I couldn’t bite anything for 3 weeks. I thought this might be an excellent diet plan. Turns out it’s not. I still managed to eat junk…just awkwardly or with a knife and fork. The temporaries gave me headaches as my mouth adjusted. Every day. For Three Darn Weeks. It also at one point chipped one of my regular teeth on the bottom and I had a minor panic attack about how much I regretted the whole process and how I never ever ever should have done it. WOE IS ME. I paid them to torture me! How awful. Cry cry cry.
Then the temporaries came off in another longish procedure and FIVE crowns with one bridged fake little lateral incisor were placed. It healed and the swelling went down and guess what? It didn’t hurt any more. I didn’t regret it. I had a beautiful new smile! I did have to teach myself to speak again! It’s amazing how much a change in your teeth can challenge your enunciation. And I talk to people for a living. I talk to my team. I talk to my customers. I talk to strangers. I pretty much talk all day and a lisp wasn’t going to hang around long. I had to actually focus on it for a few weeks. But in time, I figured it out 🙂
I think a lot of people thought I did this for other people, I may have even thought that at first. But I didn’t. I did this for ME. I am a confident person, and I love my flaws and my genetic quirks, but even though I’ve accepted my smile, I NEVER loved it. When I smiled for photos I kept my mouth shut. When I accidentally took a picture of me smiling with my teeth showing, I deleted it. I was very aware of my mouth on live feed sales/videos. I did this for me. So I could smile and not care or try to hide. I did this for me. So I could feel even more confident in what I had to say and worry less about how my mouth moved when I said it. I am sharing it here, because I did it for me and I’m not ashamed. I was born with something I didn’t love and I had the ability to change it to increase parts of me that I love more…like being happy and smiling. It had zero risk and a great big fat reward. Self confidence.
I joke about how awful it was, and some of it was less than pleasant, but if you’re in Northern Macomb County (or anywhere nearby really) and you need a dentist, I highly recommend Northstar Family Dentistry in Washington Twp. They are so warm and welcoming. They are forthcoming about billing and they do AMAZING work. It could even feel life-changing if you invest in yourself. 🙂 I am never ashamed of who I was or who I am. But I smile without worry now. And that’s how I want people to remember me. Smiling.