As a child I was picked on for many things: my name, my dirty fingernails, my mother who was in jail, my father who had been killed, the fact that I was an orphan, that I was shy and reserved. But the ridicule that remained constant was my crooked teeth, my HUGE gap. I could fit my tongue through it. On the right side, my teeth were crowded and pushed behind the gap; on the left, crowded and shoved forward. I would come home from school crying. Kids would ask me what gang I was from, because it looked like my teeth were “throwing up gang signs.” I begged and pleaded with my grandmother to please get me braces but she could never afford them. As a young adult I looked into getting them myself. I needed a car but I wanted braces too. I knew there was no way I could do both. I financed a car. Years later, I paid off my car and looked into braces again. I went to the dentist and told him I wanted to get braces, but my teeth were in bad shape; I would have had to get a lot of work done before I could get braces. There was no way I could get it all done.
Pathways gave me a dentist—Dr. Walton. The first time he saw me he asked when the last time I had seen a dentist was. I said “10.” He questioned me, “10 years?!” “No,” I said, “I was 10. So . . . 14 years.”
I got 9 fillings, multiple deep cleanings, and all four wisdom teeth pulled. Then he referred me to a Pathways Orthodontist. The day Dr. Garlington told me I could get braces I walked out to my car and cried. I remembered the day I chose to buy a car instead of braces. I never imagined getting both in this lifetime. But there I sat in a car that was paid off and an appointment to get braces.
Dr. Garlington, Dr. Walton, and Pathways gave me something that I never imagined having; a beautiful smile. I used to speak with my head down and never look people in the eye. I never wanted to see the reactions to my terrible looking mouth. Today, I walk into a room wearing a smile. It is a dream come true! Thank you so very much for changing my life in more ways than I can ever explain. Now when I smile at people they smile back. Thank you for giving that quiet little orphan girl with dirty fingernails something to smile about. I will never forget the time I thought I’d always be the girl with the ugly smile, and then the day that came where I finally could smile.