A Smile Is Forever

  A Smile Is Forever

Creating A Smile That's Good For Life
Orthodontics Can Improve Oral Health, Boost Self-Image

Braces don't just change looks - they can improve outlooks. The art and science of orthodontics has greatly enhanced the quality of life for many people of all ages. Patients say they no longer feel the urge to cover their mouths self-consciously whenever they laugh or smile.

Orthodontic patients come from all walks of life, and their personal stories are uniquely compelling. Some are strikingly attractive. But others are grateful they don't get a second glance on the street today - because before orthodontic treatment, people may have stared at them.

Among these countless people is Amie Beth Dickinson of Birmingham, Ala., whose upper and lower front teeth protruded before treatment. Until she got braces in her teens, she may not have turned as many heads as she is likely to today. She was chosen Miss Alabama 1994. Most cases, of course, are not beauty-pageant winners, but everyday people: Youngsters whose playmates don't call them ugly names or make fun of them anymore. Parents who have decided to get braces themselves after they've witnessed the change in their children's smiles and attitudes. Or women and men who believe that opting for orthodontics means they won't have to think about dentures.

"Changing people's lives is no small thing - and we do it every day," notes Dr. Terry McDonald, a Portland, Ore., orthodontist. "But the change isn't always immediate, and isn't always recognized."

Joe Miller of Chicago is a case in point. He'd originally sought orthodontic treatment because his teeth didn't meet. Chewing was so uncomfortable that he felt fatigued after meals. After his braces came off, at first he didn't think he looked all that different. But Miller found that not only was he able to relax and enjoy a meal - he could see his teeth in snapshots. That is, he was all smiles, not looking down or away from the camera like he always had before.

If some people gradually blossom and thus are unaware of how much they have changed over time, their before- and after-treatment photos often tell a dramatic story. Posture may have improved; the person may no longer slouch, but sits up straight. The smiles are less self-conscious - and more self-confident.

And because the orthodontist's specialized training and expertise has helped to close up spaces between teeth or eliminate crowding, patients have found it's easier to keep them clean. Michael Smith of Lancaster, Pa., says he has fewer problems with tartar buildup since braces realigned his teeth and jaws. "I do believe my teeth will last a lot longer," says Smith, who got braces in his late 20s.

But as has been the case with so many people, other benefits of braces have come as a very pleasant surprise. "Having braces really improved my attitude," Smith says. "I was reluctant to smile before I had them. I really didn't want to talk because I was afraid of the way people would perceive my teeth."

In his enthusiasm about the process, and its gratifying results, Smith could be speaking for thousands of people whose lives have changed because of orthodontics: "Now I feel much better about myself. I have much more self-confidence."

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