The excitement I felt at losing my baby teeth was soon replaced with horror when my new teeth emerged: the two in front were huge, and my lower teeth looked like cars on a highway after a severe winter storm. My embarrassment deepened when kids at school called me Bucky Beaver, the mascot of a toothpaste brand in the 1950s. There was no escape. An already sensitive kid, I concluded that I was not very attractive.

Although a few of my classmates were fitted with braces, the same would not happen to me. My blue-collar dad made enough to pay the bills with occasional splurges, but braces were out of the question. I became envious, imagining that with perfect teeth I’d be accepted.