I experienced a deeper level of understanding about the discovery of a large black cavity between my two front teeth. I remembered the pain, the loneliness and the horror at finding this corrosion between my teeth. The reality that I did not know what to do about it, except to decide to remember to not show my teeth when I smiled; was how far I got last time.
Then, I realized it had had a much larger impact. I had decided to remember to not show my teeth when I smiled. I took my own smile away years ago. Now, when I try to smile “naturally” in the mirror, the muscles that could’ve been well maintained over the years, simply aren’t. I don’t smile with my entire face because it has always been more important to hide my teeth.
I can look back now and recognize that this had repercussions during my entire life. The summer that I had my one and only true, deep love I have distinct memories of squishing my face up in the centre into a mock smile so that I could fully smile and still not show my teeth. I remember him mentioning that I did not show my teeth. I was not forthcoming as to why.
When that first awareness of your own appearance is just occurring and you discover you are not attractive, to the point of needing to hide, it has a profound impact on your sense of beauty. I know that for years I thought that I was hideous, just to see a photo of myself and realize that I never was.
During a formative time in my career, I missed an important dinner that was scheduled so that I could meet a partner in the business that I was working for. I didn’t go because a filling had just fallen out of my front tooth and the gaping hole was too embarrassing for me to proceed with the meeting. I should have been at that meeting, if for no other reason than to gain the experience of being at an important meeting.
Perception became reality. I lived an experience of feeling like I was unattractive. I had something to be embarrassed about, despite the reality. Funny thing. The happy ending to this story is that my front teeth continued to deteriorate. I’m getting to the funny part, just be patient. Each time that I replaced a filling, more of the original tooth would be lost and over a lifetime, that is a lot of tooth. Recently, about the time that I wrote my first story about the cavity, my middle tooth broke on a Friday and the one beside it a day and a half later. I had to have them capped this time, or risk needing full implants when they could no longer be repaired.
I have found myself explaining to people the reason that my new teeth don’t seem so different is because I had always made a point of not showing anyone my real teeth. I promised myself repeatedly, that I’d do my best to not show how ugly my front teeth were when I smile. There is still an active reminder that comes up when I am in the process of smiling. Now, I just have to relax and let myself smile fully so that I can build those muscles back up and stop looking ridiculous trying to remember how to smile naturally.