How orthodontics changed my life

George Hong Tat KANG, Chair of Dentistry

As children we are filled with hopes and dreams about what our future will be like.  Battling these dreams are insecurities about the way we look, our self-image and how people view us.  I was no different than any other child growing up in the small town of Fayetteville, North Carolina in the United States of America.


I started feeling self-conscious about my teeth when I was 10 years old, in the 5th grade.  Kids in my class started calling me names like “rat” and “mouse” because my teeth stuck out and my ears were big.  People would even ask me to smile less when they would take pictures because my gums were showing too much.  So I would practice trying to have a “perfect” smile in the mirror but to no avail.  Eventually, I just stopped smiling.


It is a very sad time in a child’s life when they are being bullied and they choose to stop smiling because of their teeth. The health of your teeth and smile can effect if you can make friends, how well you do in school and your overall health. Traumatic experiences can affect children the rest of their lives.

Fortunately, my mother and father were supportive of me to have orthodontics or braces.  By this time I was 12 years old.  I was too old for Phase One Orthodontics.  Phase One Orthodontics (also known as Early Childhood Orthodontics) can start as early as 7 years old and can help to shape the jaw bones allowing for proper tooth eruption and esthetic facial proportions.  Phase One Orthodontics may also decrease the time you need braces overall.

Unfortunately my parents were not educated by our dentist about Phase One Orthodontics.  At 12 years old my upper jaw had grown faster than my lower jaw and both jaws were too small for all of my teeth.  That is why I looked like a “rat”.  As a result, I had to have 4 teeth removed, had to wear rubber bands in my mouth and a head gear appliance at night for over 3 years.  But as a teenager, it was cool to have braces and I wore them with pride.  Everyone had them and I would choose different colors of rubber bands every month I saw the orthodontist.

I still remember the first day I had my braces taken off.  I was outside in gym class on the bleachers and everyone wanted to look at me.  “Smile, George!” they would shout and then remark how great my smile looked.  The sun was shining on my face, the wind was blowing through my hair and I was on top of the world.  From middle school, I went to high school in the city of Durham, North Carolina.  It was the first time I thought I was handsome.  Nobody knew me growing up as the “rat”.  I could create a new identity with my new found smile and confidence.  As my smile grew, so did my circle of friends, my grades improved and my confidence grew.  Even at 47 years old, people still tell me how much they like my smile.


I often wonder how much better the orthodontic experience and results would have been had someone told my parents about the benefits of Phase One or Early Childhood orthodontics.  Fortunately, I became a dentist and when I had three boys, I told myself that I would make sure that they would have the opportunities in health and life I did not have.  In the next article we will talk about the journey my 19 year old son had with braces and how it changed his life.  Until then, please make sure to visit your dentist twice a year for a checkup and cleaning.

Please call us at 4008919191 to make an appointment for Dr. Kang to take care of your family’s dental needs.