Something to Smile About: The Journey Our Mouths Tell About Us

I was sixteen when I received the best gift of my life, up to that point. Since then, I’ve had two babies that are hands-down the greatest thing I’ve ever received, but when you’re sixteen your gifts are mainly comprised of CDs and clothes from the mall, so this really was something else. My parents slipped a small white envelope under the tree for me. It was nondescript and nowhere near as flashy as the other presents they’d meticulously wrapped and prepared with bows for my siblings. I’ll admit, I went into that Christmas morning feeling a little apprehensive and very curious.

When it was my turn to open presents, I selected the envelope. There inside was a gift certificate for our dentist. After almost two decades of living with a gigantic gap between my two front teeth, I was going to have a simple, ten-minute procedure that would fill in the space and give me the smile I’d always dreamed of having.

You see, I wasn’t always self-conscious of my gap-toothed grin. I remember well many summers of going to the community swimming pool, shooting water between my two front teeth like a champion, the stream going all the way over the bouys on the rope that separated the shallow end from the deep end. I remained gloriously immune to any criticism or mockery over it all through middle school, which is a miracle considering those three years can be some of the most hormonal, angsty and gossip-ridden ones of adolescence. Yet, it only took three weeks as a freshman in high school before someone made a rude comment about it.

Suddenly, I went from smiling widely in every family photo to hiding my happiness behind pursed lips, pressed close to ensure that no one could see what I was hiding. My parents saw the change immediately and recognized the catalyst. Hence, the certificate. I went in for the appointment about a month later. I leaned back into the chair and watched as my dentist numbed me, then quickly filled in my gap with a strong and resistant composite filling that perfectly matched my two front teeth. It was a quick and painless procedure.

I’m now 31 and the filling has lasted an impressive 15 years. I can eat, floss, brush and clean my filling just as I would any other part of my mouth. However, out of caution, I do drink from a straw to avoid staining that part of my smile with coffee or tea, which happen to be my two favorite drinks. Because of that, taking my coffee with a straw has become another one of my “things.” My husband brings my mug to me that way, as do my parents when I go home to visit.

I believe a smile can tell so much about a person. Take, for instance, my brother. As he’s grown older, his jaw has shifted slightly and he is now dealing with an underbite he never expected. It’s caused him physical and emotional pain, yet through it all he’s maintained his sweet, sly smile that’s become his trademark. Thanks to some incredible massage therapy and some impressive high-tech dentistry, he’s managed to control his symptoms and correct any misalignment without having to take a drastic measure such as breaking his jaw to reset it. For the aesthetic, personal and health benefits they can bring to your life alone, I recommend learning more about these dental advancements and professional options.

Now? I smile like I did when I was 12 and unaware that people can be mean, judgmental and opinionated. I’m no longer that little girl spitting water over the rope at the pool, but I do still have her confidence, excitement and playfulness, and I love that I can smile widely and happily with assurance again. I have no doubt that as I matured, I would have grown to love my gap and actually appreciate it for the beauty and interest it adds to my face. After all, some of the world’s most famous supermodels are adored for their crooked, gapped smiles!

Yet, for a small-town girl who just wanted to fit in, the quick procedure was the best thing I could have done for myself. To see my brother walk down a similar path and rediscover his own confidence has been nothing short of a blessing. You see, our mouths tell a story about us. They reveal the beautiful foods we’ve eaten, and the kind words we’ve spoken. They tell what makes us grin and the reasons why we frown. They’re expressive, beautiful and interesting and they come in so many shapes and sizes. So, here’s to loving our quirks and embracing our differences. And to letting modern technology and capable professionals help us when we need a little nudge in a new direction.