It’s an unfortunate fact of life that our society is extremely judgmental about appearances. Strides have been made through body positivity and open discussion of unattainable beauty standards, but lots of stuff still flies under the radar.
Even things that are right in front of us all the time—like crooked teeth. If you’ve ever had dental issues, you know how self-conscious they can make you feel about something as basic as smiling. It may feel like vanity, but a smile is such a basic part of every day life. If you don’t feel good about yours, it’s a feeling that follows you around all the time.
A Twitter user named Jon Torsch shared a very personal thread about his smile journey. He shared before and after photos of his smile. Personally, I think he looks cute in the first picture, but his teeth are undeniably straighter in the second.
Torsch wanted to explain how his teeth being crooked most of his life affected everything, including his mental health.
Hello. I have just what you wanted - a thread on teeth and being poor and depression: pic.twitter.com/cCVzMy1eb5— Jon Torsch (@JonTorsch) July 26, 2019
He explains that he just paid 4 thousand dollars to do two round of Invisalign, plus some tooth shaping and retainers—and that was with insurance. When he was growing up, his family was too poor to do any of the dental work a lot of teens go through, so he had to wait until he had a job that could help him make the changes he wanted.
Even then, there were a lot of mental hurdles about spending the money on something he’d come to think of as “vain.”
Being poor means poor (or no) dental health care (or health care in general). I moved out at 17 and didn't have insurance again until 27. Even with a new stable job and insurance, spending on "cosmetics" felt uncomfortable, vain, and against all that I was taught growing up poor.— Jon Torsch (@JonTorsch) July 26, 2019
But when he was looking through pictures of himself on happy occasions, he noticed something: he was never smiling:
Here's me the day I proposed to my (now ex) fiance, the day I took out papers to run for city council, and me with my late best friend, Frappy: pic.twitter.com/ime41HRwOy— Jon Torsch (@JonTorsch) July 26, 2019
Torsch says he had so much shame about his teeth that he trained himself to never show the natural open enjoyment of a smile. It was a shame he carried with him all the time, whether he was actively thinking about it or not:
In carrying all of that shame, and training myself to not smile "all the way," and having all of that shame brought up every time I felt like smiling in public or in pictures, I've fed a much deeper (and, to be fair, broader) depression.— Jon Torsch (@JonTorsch) July 26, 2019
Finally getting his teeth straightened hit him in an emotional way he hadn’t expected:
I'm still processing it all; going through old photos to find comparisons bred this post. It feels great, I'm glad I did it. It also sucks to see what I had to do just to get to a very basic place and to finally see all of it tied together as interwoven as it's all been.— Jon Torsch (@JonTorsch) July 26, 2019
Dental care is health care is mental care; it’s all connected. Locking people out of care and profiting off of needs are pillars of capitalism, and have no defense. We need a #Medicare4All that includes dental, vision, mental, reproductive care, et al. Anything less is inhumane.
— Jon Torsch (@JonTorsch) July 26, 2019
Lots of people responded to Torsch’s message, sharing how concerns about their teeth have been haunting them all their lives. In some cases, dental work alleviated intense pain, even though it was still considered cosmetic or not covered by insurance.
ACAB: All Chompers Are Beautiful— Jon Torsch (@JonTorsch) July 26, 2019
Same on the student debt trap just to have income. I also had crowding on the bottom!! So bad they actually just pulled a whole tooth out to make space.— Jon Torsch (@JonTorsch) July 27, 2019
worse than where I started, but I know in the end it will be worth it. I'll go through one more year of not smiling in pictures to come out on the other side and hopefully able to express a basic emotion without cringing. Thanks for sharing your journey— blind bisexual goose 👻 (@jamesawyerford) July 27, 2019
Everyone deserves to feel good when they smile, whatever that means to them.