Reading the title of Colleen Sullivan’s dental memoir, “Why I love my smile after 35 years of struggling with ‘bad teeth’,” you might think that Sullivan found a place of peace with her unattractive teeth after 35 years. But you’d be wrong. Because sometimes you just can’t be happy with your teeth as they are. Instead, you might need cosmetic dentistry to help you finally feel comfortable.
It may take years to get to the point where you can get cosmetic dentistry, but that doesn’t mean you should give up.
An Innocent Childhood Gives Way to Shocked Awareness
Sullivan tells a story about a childhood where her parents were workaholics who had little time to watch over their kids, who ate sugary snacks all day and went to bed without brushing. Their parents weren’t completely neglectful–Sullivan and her siblings were taken to the dentist, who found four, five, or six cavities at each appointment and dutifully filled them with silver amalgam fillings.
But it wasn’t until Sullivan was in college that she really realized how much her smile impacted her self-esteem. When she received an anonymous note from a jealous rival that ended with the line, “P.S. Fix Your Teeth!” she was truly hurt.
The Distance between Wanting and Getting Cosmetic Dentistry
In the late 1980s, Sullivan reports that her boss quickly noticed the problem with her teeth. The British editor sent Sullivan to see a top cosmetic dentist, who offered to fix Sullivan’s smile. The only problem? The cost was 15% more than Sullivan made in a year.
So she learned to “smile” without showing her teeth. She learned to talk in public without showing her teeth. She learned to get through life without showing her teeth. And it was fine. Or so she thought.
Then one day Sullivan was framing pictures of what she remembered as the best moments of her life: her engagement, a romantic trip, hospital photos after the birth of her first child–and she realized that she was tired of hiding her teeth and she wanted to smile.
A Smile Makeover Is a Process
But it wasn’t so easy to just make the decision and do it. Sullivan had so many problems with her teeth that it took time to get them fixed. First, Sullivan had her silver fillings removed. Next, she needed braces to straighten her teeth.
The final step would have been porcelain veneers, but Sullivan balked. She couldn’t go through with it. Until, that is, she realized that one of her favorite celebrities also had porcelain veneers.
So Sullivan got her veneers at last, and she is very happy that she did.
We Know It’s Been a Long Road
If you’ve been living with bad teeth for years or decades, we know that it’s been hard. We know it’s tempting to just give up and tell yourself that it’s fine, you don’t really need to smile. But we also know that if you truly want to be happy with yourself and your life you need to address those things about your smile that bother you on a daily basis. Whether it’s a question of personal acceptance as with Sullivan or of professional advancement as with Sonya Sotomayor, your smile makeover can make all the difference.