Written by Jennifer Baron
What would you do if you won the lottery? Surely, many of us have thought about it, but how many of us have written it down on a wish list, every year, for the last five years?
Grace Love has. What started out as her son’s Christmas list evolved into “Mom’s Wish List,” things the single mother of two would do if she ever won the lottery. Dental repair was always near the top.
Well, guess what? Love just hit the jackpot! She is the winner of this year’s Cary Smile Makeover with Dr. Allan Acton of Cary Family Dental, and she couldn’t be more thrilled.
“I’ve never won anything, ever,” laughed Love. “I still feel completely overwhelmed this whole thing has happened because it’s something I wanted for so long and never really thought would happen. I was just kind of resigned to living with what I had.”
That’s because there were always other people’s needs to tend to and other health issues that took precedence. Love battled (and beat) cancer and for 20 years she suffered from debilitating migraines from the time she woke up in the morning to the time she passed out at night.
“Life is just miserable with those migraines and nothing else mattered,” recalled Love.
Now, as an empty nester, Love has been making a dedicated effort to put her own health and well-being first. She is managing her migraines, losing weight and finally getting a smile she can feel good about.
“This is really the right time for me because now I’m ready to take care of my teeth the way I always should have. It won’t be a wasted effort on his part,” Love promised.
For the second year, Dr. Acton and his staff are donating their time, skills and resources to improve smiles and change lives. For Dr. Acton, being involved with Cary Magazine on the Cary Smile Makeover contest is an opportunity to get a break from the routine dental work they do every day.
“It’s nice to actually be able to transform someone and affect the way they feel about themselves,” said Dr. Acton. “A lot of times we’re just fixing a broken tooth, and with her it felt like we were fixing a broken confidence.”
The first thing Dr. Acton had to “fix” was Love’s perception and fear of dentists. Her dental history is traumatic, to say the least. Her aversion to dentists started when she was 7 years old and had eight permanent teeth pulled with a less-than-effective local anesthetic and continued until a rare tongue slashing incident just a few years ago. She had had such bad luck with dentists she often wished she didn’t have any teeth at all.
But Dr. Acton took it slow, did a lot of listening and answering questions and eventually built a comfort level that allowed them to move forward. Love confirms Dr. Acton’s positive attitude and ever-present smile went a long way in calming her nerves.
“What really impressed me was how optimistic he is,” said Love. “It’s just like, ‘We can do this.’”
Designing a New Smile
Some bad fillings and a hodgepodge of dental work throughout the years left Love with a smile she was terribly self conscious about, but Dr. Acton assessed the situation and came up with a plan.
“I thought that her teeth looked really dark, and they weren’t the right size or shape,” explained Dr. Acton. “But she had a beautiful smile and I knew if we could redo her teeth her smile would shine through.”
Dr. Acton ended up replacing all 12 of her top teeth by using four sets of bridges. To help minimize her “gummy smile” he used a laser to cauterize away the gum tissue and expose more tooth for a bigger smile.
In choosing the shape and color of her new teeth, Love consulted not only Dr. Acton but also friends and even celebrity magazines to determine what would look best and most natural in her mouth. So she had a bit of fun designing her new smile. But the biggest reward for doctor and patient came with the final results.
“I am usually pretty picky, and it exceeded my expectations,” said Dr. Acton. “Her teeth look awesome. They have a really natural look to them.”
“I feel like a new woman,” gushed Love. “I feel like it takes 10 years off of me!”
There’s no doubt for a woman who felt like 20 years of daily migraines and the struggles of single parenthood showed on her in every way, this new smile has given her a lot more than new teeth.
“Now I just feel younger, more energetic, more confident and more positive about life,” said Love.
Her winning smile is proof she really did hit the jackpot.
Special notes of thanks: Saks Fifth Avenue matched Love with a Tahari indigo blue suit that made her blue eyes pop and a pair of Stuart Weitzman slingback shoes. Swagger Gifts accented the outfit with May earrings by Towne and Reese. Tanas gave her an updated look with a new hairstyle and makeup.