“I sat Madonna upright, freshened up her face with a warm moist towel and handed her a mirror to look at her new smile. I think her heart stopped. She was speechless for a few moments then there was a burst of tears and the words ‘Wow!’ and ‘Oh My God!’ .”
A single mother raising three children already is already a crushing responsibility, so adding a major illness is often more than a person can handle. These were the obstacles facing Madonna, a bright, highly educated XX-year-old [ethnicity] woman who was doing everything in her power to defy the odds against succeeding in life. [Randy, the next sentence is for dramatic effect – yes, you’re writing nonfiction, but you still need to “set the scene.”] She came to see me on a blustery autumn day, and we talked about the reason for her visit as the wind blew falling leaves against the windows of my office and presented us with muted sounds of traffic from Alabama Street.
Madonna had become convinced that her teeth were threatening to sink her prospects for making a better life for her and her children.
It didn’t surprise me to discover that Madonna was both an ordained minister and a professionally trained counselor. Madonna was keenly aware of what it takes to succeed in life – both personally and as a businesswoman. Consequently, she saw in herself the hesitation and lack of self-confidence she strove to instill in the people who came to her for help. She knew it was important to look the part – to show by personal example that a well-kept appearance invited trust and promoted cooperation. That started with a smile.
And Madonna was right.
Smiling is one of the few universal communications instantly understood by every human on the planet. We smile even before we are born. Ultrasound technology shows that developing babies appear to smile while in the womb.
Smiling can make you a healthier person by reducing the level of stress-enhancing hormones such as cortisol, adrenaline and dopamine – while increasing the level of mood-enhancing hormones and reducing overall blood pressure.
It has been scientifically proven that smiling can actually make you look good in the eyes of others. A recent study at Penn State University found that when you smile, you don’t only appear to be more likable and courteous, but you actually appear to be more competent.
For these reasons and more, I agreed with Madonna. If she was hesitant to smile, her confidence would be diminished and she wouldn’t be able to reach her full potential to help others.
During that first visit, we took look at the reasons for Madonna’s reluctance to smile. She gave me her concerns and I undertook a complete diagnostic [what do you call this, Randy?] that includes X-Rays and diagnostic photographs. What I discovered during that time spent with Madonna was that smiling – and laughter and a passion for life – really did come naturally for her. The condition of her teeth had created a huge barrier for her to just be her natural self.
Madonna was missing a front tooth [not totally necessary but why was the tooth missing? Had Madonna also been the victim of domestic violence, over which she triumphed? Makes us all root for her more]. The rest of her teeth were significantly discolored [do you want to put in a reason why? Might help people who have discolored teeth for the same reason], and there were old metal fillings between the teeth that were very dark.
She had what’s known as a “flipper” to replace that missing front tooth. It’s a fake tooth mounted on a piece of pink plastic that fits in the mouth and over the palate like an orthodontic retainer. It looks like a fake tooth and functions at about 20% of a real tooth. Madonna’s broken down teeth did not match her personality. It actually inhibited her from fully smiling and she would hide her smile with her hand or lips. 90% of communication is body language. Madonna did not want to give the body language sign that she might be hiding something and could not be trusted. She may not have known that was the hidden message she was sending out but she certainly felt it.
We reviewed her photographs together and talked about how it was possible to have a tooth permanently attached to her own teeth and make them all whiter, straight, and beautiful at the same time. She was thrilled to learn that. She could not even imagine what it would be like to not have the constant fear that the flipper was going to break in public creating the ultimate embarrassing and awkward moment. Or what life could be like not having to reach in and put part of your smile in a bedside glass of water. How sexy or attractive is that to a potential mate? Or the insecure feeling of hiding her smile from people she really cared about? It was a dream come true. That is until we discussed how much it would cost.
Madonna was immediately deflated and her hopes dashed. She said, “Oh, Doctor Mitchmore, I so badly want this. I’ve dreamed about this for so long. But with my health care expenses and raising children, I don’t see any way that I could ever afford that. My children come first. Even though this would make such a difference, I have to consider my priorities. My car is totally undependable. I’ll have to pay for that first. Thank You very much for your time; you have been very kind.”
We parted respectfully – and I know both of us felt disappointed. I did not expect to see Madonna again.
A couple of months went by and Madonna called to ask to review her options again. She came in for another complimentary consultation. We sat together in my private office and looked at her photographs again – discussing possibility of doing something less than ideal to save money. That would be another type of fake tooth that would definitely be better, but nonetheless not permanently attached and would be taken out to clean and soak. Madonna knew in her heart that is not what she really wanted and she thanked me again for my time and went away.
This same scenario of coming in to talk about her options was repeated THREE times more! Each time with the same ending of not thinking it was ever possible.
Then one day my phone rang. “I have decided to get my smile back,” Madonna said, “and I think I have found a way to pay for it. I want to start tomorrow!”
[Randy, I’m going to “spin” here – but I think it’s important to portray Madonna as smart enough to look for unique solutions…and here’s my suggestion] After doing some further research, had Madonna found a perfect and inexpensive car that unexpectedly left her with the means to begin the process of repairing her smile. She confided in me that she really did not know exactly how she was going to pay for everything, but she had conviction and trust that God would make some unknown things happen in her life and it would all work out.
I was delighted to hear the news and at the same time shook my head in wonder how she could ever come up with the remaining funds. I knew that it would be a huge sacrifice for her. We both knew, though, there are some sacrifices that pay off far more handsomely than others.
We got started right away. I first sculpted the design of her new smile out of white wax. A rubber mold was made of that design. The day came to give some local anesthetic, clean out the old fillings and cavities and prepare the teeth to receive a permanent bridge and porcelain veneers. The rubber mold was used to make temporary teeth while she was in the dental chair to cover her teeth while the dental lab made the porcelain bridge and veneers. Next was my favorite part of a long dental appointment. I sat Madonna upright, freshened up her face with a warm moist towel and handed her a mirror to look at her new smile. I think her heart stopped. She was speechless for a few moments then there was a burst of tears and the words “Wow!” and “Oh My God”.
Now that is why I am a dentist. We shared the joy and some very big and long hugs.
A few weeks later Madonna came back to slip off the temporary teeth and bond the porcelain bridge and veneers. They looked even better!
For the first time in [how many years?] Madonna willingly gave me her widest and most genuine smile, and we took a large number of photographs of her new look. A large portrait of her smile hangs in my office.
Madonna’s story of transformation doesn’t end there.
Shortly afterwards, sent me the nicest thank you note of how her life was dramatically changing. All of a sudden people were reacting to her differently. She explained that suddenly people were so much more outgoing towards her. Her work and income was, as she put it, “just exploding”.
In reality, the people around Madonna did not change, she had changed. Her confidence and her inner beauty literally poured out – instead of being held in. I see Madonna at fundraisers and other professional social gatherings, and we get to share a hug and a wink because we know where she started and where she is now. I look forward to those times that Madonna pops in the office unannounced just to say hello.
Madonna’s amazing life transformation is not unique. I could easily fill several volumes with stories such as this – stories of the transformation that people experience when they gain the confidence of a winning smile.