Today, I wanted to write about something that has preoccupied me for some time. To be completely honest, I’ve been a bit frightened to publish this particular post, because it focuses on something I’ve been incredibly self-conscious about for a really, really long time: my teeth.
To make a long story short, when I was seven I slipped and fell while dancing on my great aunt’s slick kitchen floor in Austria, knocking one of my front teeth completely out. Approximately 3 years later, I fell again, and damaged the neighboring tooth. Since then, I’ve spent over 5 years in braces, had two root canals, two tissue graft surgeries, a tooth extraction, a bone graft, and a new tooth implanted. Between that and interesting genetics that left me with an additional missing tooth, I’ve never been entirely happy with my smile. It’s always been far from perfect, and, on top of that, I’ve spent the last 10 years of my life living with what I jokingly referred to as my “party trick” tooth:
And a smile that looked like this:
To say I was self-conscious about it was an understatement.
Even with the fake teeth, I hated looking at photos of myself and seeing the gap and mismatched color of my teeth. I never took the retainer out of my mouth, except to sleep, and, even then, only my good friends had seen me entirely without it. When I traveled, or had an important event, I lived in fear that the retainer would break, and that I would suddenly be without a tooth. It’s quite literally the stuff of nightmares, having your teeth falling out of your head. When I was living with my college roommates, I broke my retainer, or flipper as it’s often called, eating a piece of pizza. I knew I had wonderful friends when, between getting me to laugh uncontrollably in the midst of a rather horrifying situation, they were fully prepared to trek to the local drugstore on their bikes to buy me a tube of Fixodent until I made it to the dentist. They also indulged me when I began to insist that I be photographed from one particular side, as I joked “That’s the side with all my real teeth!”
After years of surgeries and continuous poking around in my mouth, I was both tired and slightly afraid to step into another dentist’s office. My smile has always been a work in progress, but, recently I decided to be both more proactive and optimistic, and go back to the dentist. It’s still a work in progress, but now my smile looks like this:
(Forgive the grainy, post-work-out photo. Look at that smile!)
I had always hoped that one day that my smile would be better. It seems like such a trivial thing, really. I feel fortunate for having so many positive things in my life, on some days, having perfect teeth seemed almost too much to ask. When I was handed the mirror at the end of my most recent dentist appointment, I was startled, and perhaps not in a good way. I had, for so long, resigned myself to the fact that I was the girl who had two fake, gappy, mismatched teeth. I suddenly happy and slightly uncomfortable with my new look, all at the same time. Now that I’ve gotten a little more used to them, I couldn’t be happier. I still have quite a way to go over the next few months, and I’ll keep documenting my progress. In the meantime, I have plenty to smile about.