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Friday, April 03, 2009

Smile Blind


Sometimes Kathleen will write something or do something that is so profound I can't quite wrap my brain around it.  Yesterday, when Kathleen got up, I had to ask her if I could publish her story.  She wrote a story that I knew took a lot of guts to write.  After placing her head in my lap and shedding a few tears she agreed to let me publish her story.  I ran my fingers through her hair, kissed her on the forehead and told her she was very brave - and I was proud of her.


Here is her story in her own words ...

So I have to fess up… well… I don't actually have to but, as of late, I am motivated to confess in spite of the embarrassment this will surely cause me.  I'll cross that bridge when I get to it.  Anyway, back to my confession...

My entire life has been filled with challenges.  Frankly, that is a serious understatement.  One of many is my smile.  I wish I could say that the smile in my picture was my own … although it is … it isn't.  Ah, the wonders of Photoshop.

(And "no" to those who are thinking it, this isn't a belated April fools)

Once again back to my confession...

I strongly suggest anyone reading this to take a moment and reflect on your own dental hygiene because at this moment, and for the last several months, I have been regretting not taking better care of my teeth. Truthfully, I am scared to post a photo of my smile Un-retouched.  For so many years I have been ignorant of the dangers of poor dental care and recently I am forced to face the realities of my own ignorance and fear.

Yes, thats right.… Fear.

I, like many Americans, (and surely non-Americans too), have grown up afraid of dentists because their procedures have always been uncomfortable and painful.  For this very reason, most people will avoid seeing a dentist for prevention and only go when serious treatment is needed.  Often, they validate this behavior with the cost of procedures and how they are saving money, when in fact they are losing overall for the cost of the damage.

The cost of treatment shall far outweigh the cost of prevention and currently, I have no dental insurance, no job, no money, and just last night I lost one of my teeth.  I am only 30 years old.

"Was I punched in the face?"  you ask.  Although there are some who at some point in knowing me would have liked to, I'm sure… actually "no."  I was drinking grape juice.  But a drink is a liquid and applies no pressure to the tooth so how can this be?  Allow me to explain in not so dramatic detail.

The tooth I lost was a molar. One of the teeth in the back, and I am fortunate it wasn't in the front.  As a kid I developed a cavity in this molar and my parents had it filled.  If I recall correctly, these 'silver' fillings are also known as "amalgams," but feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.  Anyway, these fillings, after time, blacken, which can stain the filling and the tooth, and can also come loose or dislodged.  I never had this tooth maintained over the years or the filling replaced.

One day in my mid-twenties I was having dinner with a friend when my molar cracked while I was eating.  I had already known my filling in that tooth had shifted slightly, but in my ignorance it never occurred to me this would ever be an inconvenience.  At the time, the crack was very small, and since I wasn't covered by any dental insurance and it caused me no pain, I ignored it.

That was my first mistake.

Over time this crack in my molar got progressively worse, longer in length, and wrapped around the tooth until eventually the regular stress placed on it from daily eating began to break it off in sections.

Once the first portion was gone, it wasn't long before the rest of the tooth became too weak to hold up. So, the simple act of leaning back to drink, the pressure of my tongue alone was enough to push the tooth off.

"Oh, Boohoo" you say, "Your young and pretty and lost one tooth" actually, my story doesn't end here.

After years of poor dental hygiene for reasons ill save for another post, I have developed periodontal disease, tooth decay, stains, and Halitosis which is a fancy word for bad breathe. Its best to say these are the reasons why I'm speaking to you from behind the computer and not face-to-face.

It is my only wish that I could afford to have my teeth fixed, but the expense is far too great and, unfortunately, I don't have any rich relatives… in fact, they're poor too at the moment, some as poor as I am with no thanks to our current economic crisis. ( Go to hell Wall Street crooks ).  I have estimated it would cost me approximately $30,000USD for the treatments, dental care, and veneers. An expense I will probably never in my lifetime afford to get.

So instead I wish that others will take the time to take care of their teeth.  Although I wont be smiling without the help of Photoshop, maybe someone else will smile in my place.

Sincerely and fearful of your criticism,
Kathleen Elizabeth

Note: Bob and I contacted our dentist (who conveniently lives directly next door to us) and he came over as soon as he got my message.  He looked at Kathleen's missing tooth (the root still in tact) and will be removing it completely or doing something with it on Monday.  My heart breaks for Kathleen and I know that is why she doesn't work outside the home at the moment and has been cooped up living with a friend for years until now - because she is ashamed of her teeth.  No "I told you so" necessary here.  Kathleen has learned a difficult lesson and has humbled herself to her own inequities.  That takes a great deal of inner strength if you ask me.

Bob still has not found a job.  He sends out resumes daily and searches for hours on end every day.  Looking for work that will pay our bills "Is his full time job."  Unfortunately, we are without health insurance, so we are careful not to go skydiving or drag racing, ice skating or mountain climbing (just kidding).  I'm hoping if Kathleen goes back to school that we will be able to put her on our health insurance policy when Bob finds a job.  I'll have to do some research on that. 

If anyone knows of a dentist in or around the Charlotte, NC area that will provide Kathleen with charitable dental care, PLEASE let us know!!! 

Now, go brush your teeth and take care of your smile!

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