“What would have happened if I kept my mouth shut?”  This question has haunted me for the last 2+ decades.  I was about 10 years old when it happened.  It was a carefree summer afternoon, I was out riding bikes with the neighbourhood kids, probably on a bike that was too big for me.  We got riding a little too fast when the friend in front of me stopped.

I slammed on my brakes and over I went in a none-too-graceful head over handlebars plunge (maybe a 5 if you were rating it).  It happened so quickly that I didn’t even have time to close my mouth.  There was blood, tears, and pieces of my two front teeth on the street.  I was rushed to the dentist where I had an emergency root canal that night on one of my front teeth.  Both were built up with resin over the years, and I was always told I would need the second tooth would need a root canal as an adult.

And so we come to September of last year.  I’d pushed back my cleaning another couple of weeks.  I started to feel a little bit of sensitivity on the tooth without the root canal.  Of course I tried ignoring it because who wants to spend money on the dentist?  And it dulled, went away and then returned.  So I needed my cleaning, and a check-up, and sure enough it’s time for the other root canal; done 1 month later.

And of course it didn’t stop there.  As my dentist finished the filling she started talking about putting crowns on.  At this point I wasn’t prepared to talk dates, and processes.”Can we talk about this in January?” I said to her.  I needed time to think this through. Crowns would mean a crown lengthening procedure.  This is where a periodontst would cut into my gums in order to expose more enamel.  It would make the crowns fit better, and because of the short teeth, and in hindsight was medically necessary.

I really thought about it. I considered what would happen if I didn’t have it done.  It’s not cheap.  The obvious consequence was the crowns wouldn’t fit right, and would bite into my gums.  And then  there was the impact on my self-confidence.  If I didn’t have that done, I could see myself smiling less, even reverting to one of those closed-mouthed, “is she smiling or grimacing?” kind of smiles.   I’m a happy, positive person and I like to smile.  So of course, I went ahead with the surgery.

For June’s edition of the Milton Villager Magazine I covered a book launch.  Local photographer Laurie Goodman launched her third “Life Messages book.”  I spent a lot of time that night interviewing the life messengers themselves.  That’s how I met Fatima.

Fatima thought she had a bad smile.  She even asked Goodman to Photoshop her smile for the book during their photography session.  Goodman refused.  For Fatima it was when her husband looked at the photo and told her she had a beautiful smile, that she started to believe it.

It’s a story that has stuck with me because of my dental problems.  I had only started to consider the impact my surgeries would have on my self-confidence.  And Fatima’s story only highlighted those thoughts.   The smile is one of the first things people see.   It’s something that lifts people days. It can be encouraging, comforting mysterious or sad. A smile can say a lot or nothing at all.

There are days I still torture myself with that question. The funny thing is, I no longer care what the answer is.

For more on Life Messages visit Laurie Goodman’s website, or pick up your copy of the June, 2016 edition of the Milton Villager. It’s on newsstands now.