As far back as I can remember, I have been dreadfully ashamed of my teeth. I don’t recall if my baby teeth were nearly as bad, but when my adult teeth came in, you can instantly see my British heritage. (Sorry for the stereotype, but in this case it is true.)
The four front upper teeth have always been the issue. The centre two teeth are tilted inward, so they sort of kick out at the outside edges, especially on one side giving a distinct snaggletooth effect. (Or, as one nasty person on an online forum mentioned when I used to work in TV, a “rat tooth” look.)
The adjacent two smaller teeth are extremely recessed, pushed so far back that it actually looked like I was missing a tooth in some photos.
Our family did not have money, and did not have a dental care plan, so braces were not an option. Even though I have no bite line and have never been able to tear off a piece of food with my front teeth like normal people can, getting them fixed was simply not a priority.
Finally, a few years ago, I asked my dentist about it. I had a line of credit, maybe things were now possible. He sent me to an orthodontist, who would not hear of my idea of simply pulling out the two recessed teeth and replacing them with duplicates that were moved forward. He went on like a hippie about teeth being living animals and you can’t just rip them out – blah blah blah.
The only solution he had would be two years of pain and about $15,000. I have no idea if people can sing properly while wearing braces, but I did not want to put one of my artistic outlets on hold for two years, nor could I deal with even more headaches and pain on a daily basis.
I was pretty damn discouraged. Do you have any idea how tricky it is to try to hide your mouth with the microphone while singing every time you see somebody with a camera headed your way? I laughed behind my hand, I hid my teeth every single chance I could, I learned to smile and laugh without ever showing my teeth. This was just a way of life for me.
Then the summer of 2015, I had a new dentist (Dr. Shannon Hobbs) who was replacing a tiny filling on one of my front teeth with a special white filling compound. I joked about fixing the whole area while she was at it, and she stopped, and said that she could do that if I wanted.
She told me that this compound can basically be used like sculpture clay – she can just build up the teeth that are recessed, and build up the centres of the two teeth that were tilted. She said it is just as strong as regular teeth, would take under an hour, and was about 3% of the cost of braces.
I told her that I wasn’t expecting a miracle, even a 30% improvement would be amazing to me. She got to work immediately, filing down the rat tooth, shaping the kicked out front teeth a little bit, then filling in the recessed areas with this magical filler. About 45 minutes later, she finally showed me the mirror.
I’m not sure if it’s politically correct to scream obscenities, burst into tears, and then hug the ever living crap out of your new dentist, but that is what happened. (I think that Dr. Hobbs and her lovely assistant were both near tears as well.) I was so thrilled I actually thought I might explode.
She warned me not to open beer bottles with my teeth, like I would ever do that anyway, and sent me on my way. It took me about two days to get used to the feeling of the thicker teeth, and I may have actually lisped a tiny bit the first few days, but a week later I couldn’t even tell the difference.
The big changes came slowly, as I learned that I didn’t have to hide my mouth all of the time. I would move my hand to hide my teeth while I was laughing, then remembered that I didn’t have to anymore. When someone had a camera out, I didn’t have to smile while holding my mouth closed. I could be natural in photos. I didn’t have to second guess everything and calculate my position so that I didn’t look absolutely creepy. It was about six months after the procedure when I was taking a selfie with a friend, both laughing like idiots, that I realized that I have finally relaxed about my teeth.
(This is my buddy Rahul from http://twitter.com/TOinTransit )
When people take photos of the band onstage now, I can sing right at them without having to block my teeth with the microphone. I can live in the moment without feeling that I have to hide myself.
This all might seem very vain, like a tiny cosmetic flaw that other people would just get over and get used to. But it’s always been a big deal to me, it has always bothered me. Having this weight lifted has actually made me a brighter person, since I am now able to smile and laugh freely, naturally and unselfconsciously. I grin in front of people now. Imagine having to fight the urge to grin in front of your friends your entire life, then suddenly having that restriction removed.
There is that saying that if you look good, you will feel better. I truly believe this now.
If there is something about your appearance that has always driven you crazy, search for ways to fix it. Prices come down. Technology advances. There are different trends and styles all the time, there is often a way that weird glitches can be camouflaged, or toned down. Never stop looking – you might be surprised at what is now possible. Lasers can remove dark moles, thin pale brows can be filled in, drastically uneven features can be evened up with a little sub dermal filler. Super fine hair can be given a “clear coat” of colour to thicken it, and top quality hairstylists might have brilliant ideas.
I don’t think that people should strive to be “perfect”. (I think that “perfect” is a bit of a dirty word, actually.) Many people embrace their differences, their oddities, and that is truly healthy and good. But sometimes there is a glitch that makes us feel dreadful about ourselves, and that’s not helpful to our quest to be well balanced humans. My hillbilly teeth made me feel like a hick in a sea of well groomed city folk. I felt like an imposter, who had to hide a part of herself at all times. It was a constant discomfort and distraction. Now it’s gone. Lifted. Erased. I don’t have “perfect” teeth now, but they are good enough. Normal. But to me, that is more than I had ever dared to hope.
Not telling you which one I am, but check out some examples here:
Have you ever made a tiny cosmetic alteration that has changed you more than you expected? Please comment!