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Behind the Mask Is a Brand New, Smiling Me

By Terri Edmund White February 23, 2021 Health and Fitness

About six months after the ex and I separated, forcing the sale of our business (my job!), I relaunched my real estate career in a new city, surrounded by a smart and attractive team of (much younger) professionals.

Thanks to the “divorce diet,” as my sister dubbed it, I’d lost 20 pounds and was feeling pretty good about myself. Except for one thing: my teeth.

I’m a grinder, a bruxist, a nasher of teeth in the night. I’ve chewed through and lost more expensive night guards than I care to tally. While I’d spent the money to keep my mouth healthy, my teeth were now forced close together, overlapping in places. I’d quit smiling for photographs because a shadow made my front teeth appear gray or even black.

Taking the Leap

Realtors almost always put their photos on business cards, but I never had. I hired a professional photographer, and boy was he good. He had me smiling through the whole shoot whether I wanted to or not. It was so much fun, posing with our historic bricked downtown and riverfront as the backdrop. But I hoped I wasn’t wasting my time and money on photos I couldn’t use.

A coworker who happens to be married to the photographer saw the proofs before I did. She skillfully doctored the best of them so that my teeth looked perfect. I almost cried when I saw my new professional portrait. There was the person I wanted to be. That was me!

And then I called my dentist for a recommendation to an orthodontist.

When I arrived for my first appointment, my name was on the bright colored welcome board with all the youngsters there for new braces. An informational video explained the importance of a good bite and showed lots of before and after photos. Word art sprinkled throughout the offices inspired confidence and belief in the “new you.”

Why Wait So Long?

I hate to admit money is the biggest reason I didn’t get my teeth straightened in my 40s or my 50s. Truth is, I could better afford it then. When I was married, we shared decisions about big expenditures. I know now I should have stood up for myself and made it clear that a better smile was important to me. Looking our best shouldn’t slide just because we’re in a relationship or over 60 or work from home.

The $5,000 investment outlined in my initial consultation was steep. But a payment plan made it work for me. Now I’ve been wearing Invisalign braces for 17 months – a new set every 10 days. By summer, I’ll be done except for a retainer at night.

My smile is much improved, but my confidence is the biggest beneficiary. I don’t think twice about a big toothy grin now. It comes naturally.

I didn’t even realize how much energy it took trying NOT to smile. I can almost empathize with grumpy people. It’s hard not to smile if you are a happy person… or if you want to be a happy person.

Being newly single was a good reason to look my best. After I was fitted with my braces, I had the confidence to join Match.com. While I didn’t meet my match there, I believe I made some lifelong friends. The whole dating experience has helped me figure out what I really do and don’t want in a partner. One thing I know for sure: I want someone with a really great smile.

Something to Smile About

I don’t know anyone who actually likes wearing masks, but it’s a way of life now. The only plus I can think of, aside from health precautions, is saving on lipstick. As my smile improves, I’m a little disappointed to have to cover it up. My latest thing is smiling at people while I’m driving. It’s refreshing how many people smile back!

Covid has changed the way we connect, and I’m learning to appreciate the chance to ditch the mask and see faces and smiles. Last weekend, I video chatted with my college roomie. She and I both play flute.

When I joined the Gulf Coast Flute Choir a couple years back, she started playing again, too, and just got a new flute for Christmas. Since we don’t rehearse in person now and our concerts are virtual, she is joining in all the way from California!

Today, a girlfriend and I met via Zoom with a published children’s book author to get ideas for a project we’re working on. I’m in Florida, she’s in South Carolina, and the author is in Chicago. How cool is that? Is it just me, or does it sometimes feel technology is shrinking the world and we’re getting closer?

In a few weeks, I am “on stage” in the real estate office as we each produce a video highlighting our business “brands.” I haven’t quite figured it out yet, but I know one thing for sure: behind my mask and under these Invisiligns is a brand new me, and I like her!

It’s never too late. Take the leap!

What is the state of your teeth? Are you careful not to grin because you don’t like your teeth? What have you done to improve your smile? If you’re yet undecided, what’s stopping you? Please share with the community!

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The Author

Terri White is a writer and a realtor on Florida’s Suncoast. A Sunshine State girl since 1990, Terri keeps her Midwestern connections with Illinois family and friends and stays in touch with people from all over the world she met as an innkeeper for 26 years on Anna Maria Island. She headquarters her business in historic downtown Bradenton, where she can walk to work from her 1930s farmhouse. Learn more at www.100thYearProject.com.

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