Dear Dr. Reichwage,
My front teeth have a space almost as wide as a pencil. Another tooth juts out and my lip catches on it, so I've learned to smile without showing my teeth. My family doesn't want me to do anything about this; they say my smile is part of me, but I've never liked the way it makes me look. Have you ever had a patient like me and what do you think I should do?
Jana T., Fort Wayne
Several of my patients have dealt with this issue. While the most important aspect of your smile is how it supports or detracts from your sense of yourself, let's also talk about the power of perception. Within 20 seconds of meeting you, another person forms multiple, complex impressions about you.
These include their perception of your level of education, socio-economic background, your intelligence, and more generally, whether they want to know you better or hire you.
Do you know what is your most important physical attribute in their decision-making process? It's the appearance of your smile.
Of course your family loves you as you are, but ask them if they support you in feeling better about yourself? When you are proud of your appearance, you radiate a level of confidence that is different, and part of our confidence is the subtle reflection from others' response to us, so it's a circular process.
Your smile is the most important physical manifestation of your inner self, followed by your eyes. In my practice, my team and I have had the great joy of watching our skill literally change a patient's life. The "before and after" photos are of one of my patients who had a similar situation, and you can see her marvelous outcome.
What dentistry can accomplish now is so different from even 5 years ago, and a dentist who is staying abreast of new techniques and materials can dramatically enhance your life. We do computer-aided smile design, which shows your face, enhanced with your new smile. You can see the difference immediately and make a much more informed decision.
When your dentist plans to show you your computer-enhanced smile, take your husband or family along. They will see the important enhancement to your appearance and, I feel certain, will encourage you to make these life-altering changes.