From the age of 10 onwards there is not one single photograph of Carole Clark smiling.
As 46 year old Carole, a hospital admin assistant explains: ‘I absolutely hated my teeth so just closed my mouth to hide them. I was always the one who stood at the back in group photographs or just refused point blank to have my photograph taken.
‘In my jo, I have to see a lot of reps and speak to a lot of doctors. I always spoke to them with my hand over my mouth embarrassed by my teeth.’
But last year, Carole’s invigorated smile won her a prize in a national competition, created to illustrate the power of orthodontic treatment to change lives.
Against the Odds was conceived by the British Orthodontic Society (BOS), which represents the dental specialty of orthodontics; the science and art of correcting irregularities of the teeth, bite and jaws.
The entries to the competition were judged by Professor Tim Newton, Professor of Psychology as Applied to Dentistry and Head of Oral Health Services Research at the King’s College London Dental Institute, Sara Wallis, feature writer of the Daily Mirror, and the chief executive of the BOS Les Joffe and Professor David Bearn, Professor of Orthodontics at the University of Dundee.
Despite an acute awareness from an early age of how uneven and crooked her teeth were and of how much of a damaging impact her teeth were having on her psychological wellbeing, Carole held off having any orthodontic treatment until she was in her forties.
Despite being appalled by her own teeth, Carole did not even get them sorted out prior to her wedding in 1986.
The idea of being photographed diminished her big day and ruined her memories of it.
As she relates: ‘I was filled with dread at the thought of having all these photographs taken. When I received them all I could see was my disgusting teeth not the beautiful dress that I was wearing or the lovely veil.’
Carole only decided to take steps to improve her teeth when, during an appointment with her dentist in 2008, she noticed an advertisement for an orthodontic practice.
Seeing photos of both young and old patients before and after treatment spurred her to book an appointment. Her fears that she was too old to have braces were assuaged by specialist orthodontist Dr Joe Dwyer, who took her step-by-step through the treatment and showed her that what the braces would look like.
Carole is so happy for Dr Dwyer’s intervention and the excellent results. She describes the changes she saw in just the first few months of treatment as being ‘unbelievable, it was like watching a miracle happen’.
When she finally had her braces taken off she was so overcome with emotion by how beautiful and straight her teeth now looked that she burst into tears of happiness and kissed everyone in the room!
With a smile she can be confident about, Carole’s personality has been completely transformed.
From always avoiding the camera she is now the first in front of it! Soon after completing her treatment her husband surprised her on Christmas Day by asking her to marry him again.
They are to renew their vows on their 25th wedding anniversary in July 2011 and Carole can’t wait to finally have wedding photographs that she can be proud about, showing off her beautiful teeth with the biggest, widest smile!
Psychologist Professor Tim Newton, one of the judges of the competition, comments that Carole should be commended on taking the decision to have orthodontic treatment.
He says: ‘Her case shows that you are never too old to have orthodontic treatment and that braces are not just for young people. Her greatly improved smile exemplifies the benefits of orthodontic intervention at whatever age.”
Carole’s specialist orthodontist was Dr Joe Dwyer, who practices at Sunlight Orthodontics in The Wirral.
For impartial advice about orthodontics for young people and adults including where to find your nearest orthodontist visit www.bos.org.uk.