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I Want a Confident Smile


WebMD Commentary from "Marie Claire" Magazine

By Gretchen Voss
Marie Claire magazine logo
Round two with braces — and thankfully, no zits — this time gives Gretchen Voss something to grin about.


"Dude, you need to fix your teeth." That's what Booth, one of my closest college friends — a no-nonsense fashion critic whose job it is to note the aesthetically nasty, whose nature it is to name it aloud — slurred at me late one night last year. Hideous, right?

Actually, I was thrilled. Seriously. (And not just because I was punch-drunk.) I was sick of dithering — worried that I was frivolously buying into some aging prom-queen vanity — over whether or not to get braces. This was objective confirmation, in all its gimlet-eyed harshness, that I was justified in plunking down more than two grand (insurance would cover the other $2000) on myself, when there was a voracious family in a starving economy to cater to.

Truth was, my smile had melted into the moue of a crazed jack-o'-lantern. Maybe it was all that smoking in my younger years; maybe it was all that breeding in my recent years; maybe it was simply crap genes. But in the year since I had last seen Booth, my teeth — the ramrod-straight soldiers that four years of adolescent orthodontia buys — had rebelled. The top row of chompers splayed mutinously, while the front two parted ways, leaving an empty chasm — more snaggletooth Shih Tzu than chic Lauren Hutton — in which my tongue once got stuck. Still, until that night, I mucked around in indecision. Was I being silly and superficial? This was new terrain: Beauty, for me, had never been some angsty, hard-won battle. I wore my looks easily, comfortably, mainly because I liked them. But suddenly I didn't feel pretty. I cringed at photos — then stopped taking them altogether. Silly or not, I was sick of rendering myself invisible.

Although the latest survey from the American Association of Orthodontists reports more than 1.1 million adults treated annually (a 33.5 percent increase from a decade ago), I was definitely the only latte drinker in the packed waiting room of the orthodontist my 13-year-old, neon-pink-rubber-banded babysitter recommended. Undeterred, I marched into his office and plunked down pre-splay photos: blissfully manic smiles at my wedding and openmouthed guffaws with my friends. The doc was incredulous. That was me just last year, I insisted. That is me.

The physical pain that April morning was nothing. (Then again, unlike most drama tweens, I had childbirth as a comparison.) After the good doc glued clear (though not invisible) ceramic brackets on my top teeth (old-school silver shiners covered the bottom), my husband grabbed me that night and playfully leered, "Wanna make out, braceface?" I mean, really, it was hilarious: 37 years old and slicing corn off the cob and avoiding egg salad and balling up bits of wax to cover the stabby intruders. Of course, it wasn't always funny. Take the day I played tennis with some fancy acquaintances at a local country club. One lame flub of the ball — which then careened into my face — and my whites bled red. Pride, shredded cheeks — it all hurt.

Six months in and with two months to go, I'm cool with it. Sure, I wear more eye makeup and less lipstick, and I absolutely miss red wine and curry and coffee-without-consequence (those clear rubber bands stain!). Flossing is a nightmare, as is hauling a toothbrush out and about (though not as bad as forgetting it, especially after a meal involving spinach).

Mostly, though, I just feel fortunate to be able to buy my way back to the pretty. As my orthodontist says, I have a big smile. I've missed it. You can't tell a proper dirty joke without one.

How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

Number of Days Per Week I Floss

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Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

SOURCES:

American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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