‘Such a pretty little girl. A pity about your teeth.’
A nun spoke these words to me when I was 13 years old. It was my first year at a convent boarding school, and Sister Evelyn Marie’s thoughtless comment would form the basis of a decades-long, debilitating self-consciousness.
My teeth at that time were slightly discoloured (possibly due to the antibiotic tetracycline prescribed for earlier bouts of tonsilitis), and the top teeth were crowded and crooked. But until the nun brought my attention to their appearance, it had never occurred to me − or been pointed out − that there was anything ‘wrong’ with or unusual about my teeth. Although shy, I was always a friendly child, and had a quick smile for everyone.
But not anymore. From that point onwards, I smiled much less, and with my mouth closed as often as possible. I must have displayed all kinds of facial contortions while trying to laugh without opening my mouth. This continued throughout high school and into early adulthood. The appearance of my teeth was a source of ongoing discomfort. But of course I never spoke of this to anyone.
At age 26, I asked a dentist about straightening the teeth. It turned out to be a simple procedure. He removed a couple of top teeth on each side of the jaw, and then put braces in place. These were tightened every couple of weeks. Six months later the braces were removed.
I was thrilled with the result. Though still discoloured, the teeth were at least straight, and I was far less troubled by them in my 30s, 40s, and 50s, when I was working as a journalist and educator. (I made sure, however, never to wear white, yellow, or cream-coloured blouses, dresses, or T-shirts, as the colour would make my teeth look more discoloured. I was also careful about shades of lipstick.)
Now fast foward several years to my mid-to-late 60s. To my dismay, the previously straightened teeth had begun to shift to their original positions,, and over the years the discolouration had increased and other problems had emerged. My teeth in general were not in good condition. And, once again, I was becoming neurotic about the way they looked. I hated smiling or laughing in the presence of others. I was convinced that when I spoke, people were staring in disgust at my teeth. These feelings even played a role in whether or not I would take part in social events.
It all sounds crazy even while I describe it here. I realise now that I had let this perception of my teeth partially dictate the course of my life. Insanity! Incredible to think that a few careless words decades earlier had thrown a cloak of anxiety and distress over the future of a young girl who – on the brink of adolescence – was at an emotionally vulnerable age.
About six years ago I began to consider the possibility of cosmetic dentistry (i.e. facings/crowns), but I told myself that other things in life were more important. Nevertheless, the negative feelings about my teeth persisted. Then, after I had confided these thoughts to a good friend about three years ago, she encouraged me to pay a visit to her own dentist, Karin Molhoek. I did so. Karin answered all my questions carefully and in detail. She explained that first I would need to undergo a period of normal dental treatment and supervision in order to improve the condition of the gums. Once everthing was in order, I would be able to have facings/crowns placed if I wished.
This period lasted several months, during which time I still had not decided whether to go ahead with the cosmetic dentistry. After all, it is a major procedure, and − among other things − I was worried that there might be problems afterwards.
Finally, after the many months of first-class care from the KiesQ team, and a further discussion with Karin (who always responded in full to my questions and concerns), I decided to take the plunge. An appointment was made.
I arrived at the clinic on the morning of 1 March 2016, feeling relaxed and confident. The procedure − carried out by Karin and her assistant, Melanie Hoek − went seamlessly. The local anaesthetic ensured that I felt no pain, and discomfort was at a minimum. In fact, it was interesting to observe how each of the six facings/crowns, created by the technician, Winnie Sei Chan, was customised so that it would fit perfectly in its place.
I felt safe and protected the whole time, even while sitting in the cosy, quiet waiting room between treatment sessions. (A special nod of thanks here to Mary de Kroes, the office manager. I had told her in an email a couple of days earlier that I was feeling a little frightened. What a comfort when she responded immediately, saying ‘I will take good care of you’ and ‘everything will be more than fine’.)
After the procedure − which lasted around six hours − my friend picked me up and drove me back to Delft. During the ride, she exclaimed, ‘I can’t believe it, You look 10 years younger!’
The first thing I did when I got home was to rush to the bathroom mirror and give myself a big smile. Then I took a quick selfie − my first and last − and emailed it to my family. J
Period of adjustment
I experienced no pain or discomfort the next day or afterwards. However, I was aware of a certain feeling of pressure at the gum level. But this was quite natural. After all, major adjustments had been made in that area. In any case, it was never a problem, and I slept comfortably at night. In time, the feeling of pressure disappeared. Everything felt normal.
Because my front teeth facings/crowns were constructed to be a tiny bit longer than the original teeth, for the first three or four months I found it occasionally a little awkward to form words in a natural way: for example, words containing the letter ‘s’ needed special attention so that I would not lisp. It also seemed I had to make an extra effort to close my lips over the teeth, especially if my lips were dry. However, my hygienist, Marianne Vos, had given me a good tip. She said I should read aloud to myself in order to get used to the feel of the new teeth while I was forming words. This was an extremely useful exercise.
If I had an occasional doubt about the facings/crowns, and wondered whether I had made a mistake, I simply went to the bathroom mirror and smiled at myself. J
No, definitely not a mistake! The smile looked wonderful, and very natural! I knew that my mouth and I just needed time to get used to the new ‘feel’ and ‘look’. J Indeed, before long I could speak comfortably, just like before. Everything had adjusted.
I can barely remember now what I looked like before the facings/crowns were placed. (In fact, if I want to creep myself out, I look at the ‘before’ photo of my smile. J I cannot imagine why I took so long to make such an important decision.)
The changed appearance of my smile has altered my life in ways both large and small.
- I pay closer attention to my dental hygiene;
- I smile openly and often, at anyone and everyone, friend or stranger; I feel like a kid again (prior to age 13); J
- I am relaxed in social situations;
- I now wear a wider variety of colours;
- I enjoy different shades of lipstick;
- I wear the kind of jewellery (e.g. earrings, necklaces) I like; no more trying to avoid attention being drawn to the lower part of my face;
- I no longer bite my fingernails; now even my hands look better. J
The treatment has been beneficial on a physical and emotional level.
Appearance of course is not everything. For an optimal quality of life, a holistic approach is best. Thus, while it is important to develop positive personal qualities and character traits, it is also a fact that a bright, healthy-looking smile plays a significant role in the development of self-confidence and a healthy self-esteem.
I wish I had known much earlier about Karin and the state-of-the-art dentistry in which she and her team excel. If anyone reading this can identify with even a small part of my backstory, I would encourage you to drop any fears or hesitation about taking the step you have possibly been considering for years.
Discuss your situation with Karin. She will advise you well. And if you have the option of one of the available procedures, Karin and her team will give you not only a New Smile but − in many ways − a New Life.
Team KiesQ, thank you.
D.M.D. (74) Delft