Everyone dwells on their flaws. For every bit of a(n over)confident jerk I am, there were two particular things that bugged me:
- A couple moles (that I’ve had removed)
- and my teeth.
I’m blessed with what I
humorously self-deprecatingly lovingly refer to as a creatively arranged smile. It’s a crowding thing; common, but nevertheless annoying. I did not see an orthodontist as a kid or teen, so it went untreated.
The Bad News
Frankly, failing to see an ortho in my youth a good thing because I had some dental health issues in the past few years. Those issues may have rendered the investment of time, money, and discomfort not as useful as it ought to have been. A year after I started this blog, I got some bad news from my new dentist – the news that made me realize that I was GLAD I didn’t receive orthodontic treatment as a kid. I needed:
- A root canal (eek!) and crown
- Three extractions of broken (weak, crappy) molars
- and four fillings
You see, in addition to being cavity-prone, having creatively arranged (read: crooked) teeth has HEALTH impacts as well as cosmetic ones. It’s easier for bacteria, even with a good dental hygeine routine, to hang out and cause problems. Flossing is harder; in my case, some teeth are about 200% more difficult to floss properly than my other teeth that are, “behaving.” Crowded teeth compete for space and can rest up against one-another in a sub-optimal fashion, wearing away at precious enamel. It can also affect your bite – impacting your ability to chew AND potentially leading to further dental and jaw problems. So, had I gotten that treatment, it wouldn’t have been as bad…but I know I have lame, cavity-prone teeth in spite of all that.
I have friends who have questionable diets and habits who have had nary a cavity; meanwhile, I’m over here not drinking sodas and a bunch of other sugary and/or acidic drinks or foods, brushing twice daily with a GOOD electric toothbrush, flossing, using a WaterPik (they’re majestic), rinsing with Listerine and … chaos.
Work, Work, Work, Work, Work
I did not feel as though I was, “being taken for a ride,” with this care plan. I know my dental care team to be folks of integrity. Still, the out-of-pocket cost even with my dental insurance through my employer was heart-wrenchingly expensive; the extent was more than I anticipated and planned for – and FAR more than should be reasonable for someone my age who has not completely ignored dental hygeiene
I cried. I was bitter, angry, and wallowing in self-pity; I had even penned (but never published here) an angry post on the matter. I’m naturally cavity prone; even with good oral hygiene habits, my teeth have targets on them. It’s OBNOXIOUS.
I had the work spread out over about a year and a half with the assistance of leveraging an FSA to use pre-tax dollars to fund my fixes. Fortunately, just in time for the second phase (of three) of my Root Canal treatment, I secured secondary dental insurance that immediately paid for itself in the first visit after I obtained it. It also reduced the cost of my remaining treatment by a significant number, and in-all I spent only about half of what I expected. My work wrapped up in October 2016 and I’ve had a clean bill of dental health since. I’m so happy to have reclaimed my health and the structural integrity of my teeth.
Straight & Narrow
With my health firmly established, early this Spring I started contemplating orthodontic treatment to correct my little trainwreck. For a long time, I thought I was just going to live with the situation, but early this Spring I decided perhaps not. It isn’t about demanding an impossible aesthetic or correcting insecurities; my goals aren’t to achieve flawlessness, and this stopped being about only my own personal insecurities a long time ago. I cultivated a smile that does not bare my teeth and reflexively cover my mouth when I laugh. Most people don’t seem to notice – or they’re polite as hell and claim not to.
Let’s face it – whether we appreciate it or not, everyone we meet makes snap judgments about us. A younger, haughtier self would say,
To hell with ’em, what do they know?
It isn’t that I disagree, but I am wise enough to know that my dismissal of such ridiculous, shallow judgments has no bearing on their existence or their impact to me.
If this were random strangers? Fine. To hell with ’em indeed, but not everyone you encounter is going to be a random stranger. Multiple studies have been executed to assess the types of judgments people make solely on the basis of imperfect smiles. Spoilers: The assessments did not rate those with imperfect teeth on the same footing as those with straight teeth. So, TL;DR: if you’re interviewing for a new job or a promotion, your imperfect teeth will be a factor in making a decision. You may not be taken seriously as a professional or as though the education or expertise you possess is relevant.
Frustrating, but Nevertheless True
Incomprehensible though it may be, I can’t afford to be taken less seriously as a professional or, worse, lose a career opportunity because something that trivial. It isn’t just about career opportunities, though: studies also show that your teeth, as one facet of your appearance, can impact, “the moral judgment that jurors make about you.” Pretty scary that something so small could potentially be the difference between being considered an amoral scumbag or not.
Don’t believe me? Here are a few articles that reference the studies, elaborate a bit, and support that all that:
- PR Newswire, 2012
- LA Times, 2011
- Lady Clever, 2015
- BBC Science & Environment, 2014
- Science Daily, 2016
It sucks, but that’s the reality we live in. I’m not equipped to change society, and because I intend to continue working as a professional and advancing my career, I need to invest in correcting my teeth. I’m choosing to think of it foremost as a business expense that has perks.
Metal braces are not a great option for me. Adults can and do get them but remembering what my peers as a youngster went through leaves me with no interest. Virtually nothing about conventional metal braces fit into my lifestyle. Between appointments for adjustments, having metal wires in my mouth that can cut the insides of your mouth, and so forth…nope. I am effectively, “client-facing,” and am often in in-person meetings; I’d prefer not have metal braces be either an unsightly distraction OR an impediment to my speech if at all avoidable.
My perfect world is one in which I can be treated with invisible aligners such as Invisalign or the product from SmileDirectClub. My secondary insurance might cover part of them (or other treatment). I would strongly consider clear braces as a compromise if my case is deemed too complex by my ortho team.
Frankly, is killing me. I have a consultation setup on the 23rd to see what we can make of this chaos. I’ve had the appointment for a week already. My fingers are crossed to hear that clear aligners are suitable, and that it won’t cost me a kidney.