As a baby, I sucked my thumb. Most children grow out of this habit by about age 2 or 3. But my home was a tumultuous one, and I continued to seek comfort in my thumb well past my toddler years. In fact, it wasn’t until age 7 that I finally stopped, and only because my Catholic upbringing introduced me to the concept of Lent, in which I obediently sacrificed thumb-sucking for 40 days, and never looked back.
The damage was already done, orthodontically speaking. Years of pushing my thumb against my front teeth resulted in a pronounced overbite. At first I wasn’t aware that my smile was different from anyone else’s. It wasn’t until Class Picture Day when my mother suggested that I might not want to show my teeth when I smiled. Why not? I loved to smile… I was just a tiny pixie of a smile machine. But then I understood. My mother regarded my smile as not pretty enough, and she was trying to protect me from embarrassment. My photo from that day shows a “Mona Lisa” smile, except unlike the subject of DaVinci’s most famous painting, I was not being coy. I felt ashamed to show my teeth.
From that day on, I became obsessed by my teeth. I’d look in the mirror endlessly, trying to use my little fingers to push my teeth back like a “normal” smile. My mother, who was now on her own as a single mom, didn’t have the money for a high-priced luxury like braces. I even tried wrapping thread around my teeth, hoping I might be able to mimic the shape-shifting of metal braces.
Still, I continued to smile because in spite of my overbite, every child has a need to express joy, laughter, delight. But I had already lost a piece of my inner child radiance, believing that my smile didn’t measure up. I compared my teeth to everyone else’s… celebrities, classmates, cousins. My smile always came up short.
As a young adult, I convinced myself that my unique smile made me stand out in a good way. I searched for famous stars with imperfect teeth… Lauren Hutton, Tess Harper, Beverly D’Angelo. This helped for a while.
But in my late 40’s, my photo appeared in a small local newspaper. The angle showed my profile, and although I wasn’t the focus of the photo, my eyes were drawn to just one thing... my teeth. It’s likely no one else cared a whit about my teeth, but it mattered to me, and I’d finally reached my limit of feeling self-conscious every time I smiled.
At the time, a friend of mine had just gotten adult braces, the metal kind I knew from childhood. I admired his bravery, but I wasn’t interested in that painful, cumbersome process. However, something new had arrived in orthodontia… Smile Direct Club “braces.” These hard plastic trays were molded to a person’s exact bite, and every 2 weeks, a new set of trays gently repositioned the bite, until ultimately, the smile was restored to its correct position. The best parts? Smile Direct Club had a program where the trays needed to be worn only overnight, so no hassle of daytime in and out for meals, and it was less than half the price of metal braces. I was sold!!!
As a gift to myself, in my 50th year, I began the journey to a new smile. The process took about 2 years, and it was remarkably easy and the discomfort minimal. I am now a lifetime client of the Smile Direct Club, who provide my nighttime retainer to insure this little girl’s radiant smile stays in place.
So if you are not satisfied with your smile, no matter what your age, you are right on time to do something about it. (In case you or someone you love might be interested, email me and I’ll send you a link for a $100 off coupon.)
What about you? Has there been some aspect of your appearance that caused you to feel self-conscious? Did you do something about it?