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The Voice of the Black Community

Life and Religion

Niece needs help with her smile
Seek help for teeth, and boost her self-esteem
 
Published Thursday, September 20, 2012 7:52 am
by Wesley Carter

My niece refuses to smile. She is embarrassed because her teeth are not aligned and my sister cannot afford braces. I worry that my niece will go through her entire adolescence without smiling. How can I help her?

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Wesley Carter

Chewing, digestion, and oral health are all influenced by the alignment of our teeth. In addition, properly aligned teeth contribute to an attractive, symmetrical smile. Over half of all children need some type of dental care to improve the appearance or function of their teeth. Improperly aligned teeth can be corrected with braces. Unfortunately, braces can be expensive, often costing $5,000 or more.  


Your niece is obviously self-conscious about her smile. Her childhood should not be marred with insecurities about her appearance. Make an appointment at your local dentist and seek guidance on how to correct her smile. If your sister and family cannot afford the expense of braces, investigate other funding options.


If your niece’s tooth alignment is severe, your sister may be able to get assistance from your local social service agency. Dental schools are another option. They often provide inexpensive or free dental care to families with financial challenges. Additionally, there are non-profit, charitable organizations dedicated to providing dental care to youth whose families are unable to afford the expense of braces.  Contact your dentist for a referral or do an Internet search for organizations in your area.


While you are exhausting all available resources, partner with your sister to boost your niece’s confidence about her appearance. Point out celebrities such as Kerry Washington, Anna Paquin, Kirsten Dunst, Natalie Cole and Lauren Hutton as living examples of women whose improperly aligned teeth have not hampered their careers or our perceptions of their beauty. In fact, People magazine designated Kerry Washington as one of the most beautiful women in 2012.


Remind your niece that the slant of our brow, the specific placement of our nose, and even our smile makes us unique. Her teeth may not be ideally placed, but a beautiful personality will make it impossible for others to focus on her teeth. Explain that kindness, generosity, and integrity will have a tremendous influence on how others perceive her beauty.


Emphasize the importance of keeping her teeth clean and getting regular dental check-ups. Encourage her to smile and laugh freely. As she begins to accept herself, others will follow suite.


Brainstorm with your sister and niece to come up with a long list of all of the lovely characteristics possessed by your niece. Be creative! Suggest hairstyles and other fashion tips to redirect your niece’s focus from negative self-thoughts to her positive attributes. Practice positive affirmations with your niece to help her build a healthy self-esteem. Ask her to conduct an experiment and smile freely for an entire day. At the end of the day, ask her about her experience. It is likely that no one will have commented negatively.

WESLEY CARTER provides guidance to parents. Submit your questions to wesley@kidsbycarter.com Visit www.kidsbycarter.com and follow on Twitter @kidsbydrcarter.


 


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