Your Smile, Your Career

How my orthodontist changed my life.

Do you love your career? Do you love your smile? Now I can finally answer “yes” to both. These questions may not seem relevant to each other, but your smile and your career are definitely connected. Whether you’re stepping into a job interview, a meeting or just sitting down to catch up with your manager; your smile is the first thing people notice about you.

I’m finishing my treatment with InVu Cosmetic Braces this summer and having my teeth move into alignment has made me realize how much they were holding me back all these years. I had braces for a while growing up, but never finished my treatment. For years my dentist urged me to pursue orthodontic treatment, but like many adults, I thought I was too old for it.

I had a severe overbite, tight contact points (limiting space between my teeth) making it hard to floss and canine teeth that tipped outward enough to look “vampy.” Because my upper teeth fully eclipsed my lower jaw, the teeth were constantly running into each other and sometimes chipping away or even breaking.

In my first corporate position, one of my front teeth chipped and the dentist was booked for a week solid. I covered my mouth constantly when speaking and agonized over the broken tooth during team meetings. I darted for my cubicle each morning and ate at my desk at lunch, trying to avoid my colleagues at all costs.

When teeth weren’t broken, I didn’t think my smile affected my confidence. I never showed my teeth in photos and didn’t realize that I avoided really smiling (with my mouth open) in business environments and off the clock. My smile was closed-mouthed and tight-lipped which didn’t always send the right message to people; sometimes it came across as smirking or being rude. Investing in orthodontic treatment sounded self-absorbed and expensive and I wasn’t a candidate for treatment with clear aligner trays because of my more aggressive case.

When I interviewed with my current employer, an orthodontic manufacturer, I was extremely aware of my crooked teeth. I knew that being in the industry it was something that they’d notice immediately, but I kept smiling because I really wanted the job.

Before I started my treatment in braces, I had a few discussions with friends and family members trying to dissuade me. I was told I should stop trying to be perfect and that braces are a superficial, elective procedure that I shouldn’t waste my money on. Then I had a reasonable discussion with my orthodontist, Dr. Charles Wait in Scottsdale, Arizona. He talked to me about the continued tooth damage I would see for years to come if I left my overbite untreated and told me I deserved a smile I could be confident in. He was right.

This month I read the article, Bad Teeth, Broken Dreams: Lack of Dental Care Keeps Many Out of Jobs on CNBC.com. The article reads: “In America, most people-including employers-make instant judgments on appearance, including someone’s smile and teeth.” The article includes heart wrenching details and painful examples of adults who cannot afford dental or orthodontic treatment needed and how it’s affected their careers and livelihood.

Reading the article made me think of the other adults, like me, who aren’t held back because we can’t afford the perfect smile, but because of our own misperceptions about treatment. Despite the dental issues that can occur when crooked teeth are left untreated, (TMJ, Gingivitis, enamel wear and tooth loss), most adults avoid braces like the plague. Fortunately, the latest aesthetic treatment options are making orthodontic work more approachable for all of us.

Most orthodontists now provide aesthetic treatment alternatives to their adult patients. My braces actually use a color-matching technology to blend in with my tooth enamel; making them less noticeable. My orthodontist also uses white archwires that are practically invisible. People don’t usually notice my braces at all, but when they do they always respond with positives. They say, “That’s so great that you’re in braces,” or “I wish I could get those”. I always tell them that they should and they can.

Talking to Dr. Wait about my teeth really changed my life forever. My closest friends tell me that I smile so much more now. When I walk into that conference room or meet with company clients or vendors I never pause to think about my teeth. I radiate warmth and confidence every time I meet people; I never really knew that was possible.

This article originally appeared on YahooVoices.