I've Been Offered Braces All My Life, but I Choose to Love My Imperfect Smile Instead

Upon first glance, you might think my teeth are straight. That’s how they appear when you look at me straight on. Spend longer than a glance looking or take a look from the side, however, and you’ll quickly see that my top two lateral incisors are, in fact, crooked. They stick out ever so slightly, disaligning themselves from the rest of my teeth. And while it’s only the two teeth that are out of place, I have, on many occasions, been offered the option of braces by dental professionals.

As a child, I certainly gave serious consideration to the offer. A number of my friends had braces, and I remember being told by adults in my life that I should get braces while I was still young (they claimed it would be less painful and less embarrassing). Such notions definitely made me feel pressured to make a decision and make it quickly.

I might have caved had my mother and brother not shared the exact same smile profile. Aside from the blond-hair-brown-eyes combo, it’s one of the ways you could peg us as biological family. I give a lot of credit to my mother in helping me embrace my natural smile. She always said, “It gives us character.” And so, despite societal pressure to have perfectly aligned teeth, I chose over and over again to forgo braces.

In reality, I questioned my decision on more than one occasion, especially as I entered my teen years. While I was a fairly confident person, I wasn’t always comfortable with my physical appearance. I had high-school boyfriends who poked fun at my teeth (I realize now that they were just trying to poke a hole in my otherwise-unwavering self-esteem) and made me question my choice to pass on braces. All it would take, though, was a look in the mirror. I legitimately liked (and still currently like) my smile. It didn’t matter to me if other people did.

As an adult, I’m actually thankful for the resilience of my younger self. I love that I chose (and continue to choose) the smile that I was given. It’s the smile that is unique to my family and the smile that helps to make me the unique individual that I am. When I look in the mirror, I don’t see something that needs to be corrected. Instead, I see something that should be embraced. It doesn’t matter that my textbook “imperfect” smile stands out among the sea of the straightened. At the end of the day, I only want to look like me.

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