I’ve always felt insecure about my teeth in a way that other people I knew were insecure about things like weight and acne. I sympathized with their insecurities, of course, but always secretly felt like they were better off than me. A few extra pounds didn’t keep them from smiling. A pimple didn’t make them go about their day with their mouth squeezed shut, too insecure to talk for fear of someone noticing and laughing at my teeth.
My mother told me it was nothing to worry about; that I looked fine. I nodded when she said this, and pretended to be more confident, to agree that really nothing was wrong with me, that I looked fine. Secretly however, I understood that we didn’t have the money to do anything with my teeth . That she was telling me these things so that I could bear the years of my adolescence without the help of the cosmetic dentistry I felt I so desperately needed.
I did bear those years, and they passed as most people’s years do. Slowly, painfully. I got out of them okay, but the beginning of my years of a young adult were spent much like my ones as an adolescent. People commented on my smile; how my lips stretched together in an imitation of a Grinch, how it was controlled and slow rather than the quick and sudden laugh and burst of teeth that most people showed.
Finally, I had enough money. I’d worked for several years in the profession of my choice, and had saved enough of my earnings to justify the expense of veneers. My boyfriend at the time supported me, understanding that I had no other choice. If I was to live a good life, I had to fix my teeth. I simply could not be happy otherwise. He understood that, so he held my hand in the waiting room of my dentist, picked me up an hour after the procedure, when my lips were so numb that I couldn’t feel myself smiling.
I could see it, though. I could see the mouth I had always wanted, could smile in a way that was unrestricted, laugh without being afraid. It was vain, perhaps, to always be so aware of my appearance. I accept that, and wish I hadn’t needed this procedure to be happy. But I did, and it did make me happy. In some ways, I owe my life to cosmetic dentistry. It made me unafraid. It made me happy.