On Smiling

Smiling is something that comes naturally to a human being. It’s a reflex that is within us from a very early age. When we were young most of us will have laughed and smiled for the majority of the day. Yet as we get older, we start to feel more and more self conscious of our smiles and they get smaller and less toothy. It is very rare that you will find a photograph of me as a child where I am not genuinely laughing or smiling from ear to ear with all teeth on show or pulling some kind of daft cheesy grin face. However as I began to get older and lost my tiny pearly white baby teeth and inevitably gained my adult teeth my smile all but faded away for a long time and in most photos I have an awkward, small, close mouthed smile.

I have dental fluorosis or mottled enamel on my teeth. This means that my front teeth are permanently yellow/brown and there is nothing I can do about it, unless I am willing to spend thousands of pounds on veneers or crowns. I don’t really know what specifically caused it in my case apart from that when I was younger I got ill a lot and had to take antibiotics quite frequently, which apparently can be a cause. This is why for the most part I now hate my smile. Of course I do still smile and show my teeth but I am so self conscious. Sometimes if I’m lucky, I will forget but only for a split second before I remember what other people are seeing and then my smile fades again.

Recently I have realised how much it bothers me. I occasionally will go through fazes where I almost completely forget. Then someone will make a comment about how I have something on my teeth or ask why they are stained or when I was a smoker they would make the mistake of thinking it was nicotine stains. Don’t get me wrong cigarettes wouldn’t have helped but they weren’t the cause.

Now this isn’t supposed to be a woe is me, I have horrible teeth and everyone should feel sorry for me post but we are in a time when body image and “expectation vs reality” are a huge part of a person’s confidence. I see articles everywhere about how, mostly, young girls have so much pressure on them to reform to medias idea of perfection in regards to their bodies and how this is wrong. So often in the media it is talked about how we shouldn’t worry about wether we are too tall or too short or too fat or thin and I so totally and completely agree that so long as we are healthy then what does it matter.

Why then in an in an age where we are trying to get people to be so much more confident with who we are and what we look like is it portrayed that unless you have immaculately straight white teeth then there is something wrong with your dental hygiene? I brush my teeth every day as advised and have never had any other issues with my teeth so far (apart from a couple of fillings). Yet I still feel like there is something “wrong” with me and I can’t fix it.

Adults for the most part won’t really mention it, they want to, at least in previous discussions with people I know I have discovered that they wanted to ask about it when they met me but waited for me to bring up the subject myself. Children are the ones who will point it out and ask what’s wrong with my teeth or tell me that I need to brush my teeth. I’m sure they don’t mean it in a horrible way, they just don’t have the same buffers we do when it comes to being aware of people’s feelings. From a very young age we are taught that teeth should be shiny, straight and white if they are clean and anything otherwise is not healthy or means you have poor dental hygeine. However, as much as I am aware that the children don’t mean any harm by asking me questions or pointing out my “dirty” teeth, it really doesn’t help me feel good about myself or my smile and really knocks my confidence.

I guess really what im saying is that at a time when everyone is trying to be more accepting and we are changing the face of what is “normal” maybe we should be informing adults and children alike of ALL the differences a person can have including smiles, the gappy, the crooked and the slightly discoloured, so that maybe more people will be inclined to smile with confidence.

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