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
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
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."