RALEIGH, N.C. — On television makeover shows, it takes an hour for someone to be transformed. In real life, it takes a bit longer -- but the results are just as rewarding.
A local woman is now living her dream of making over her less-than-perfect smile.
Debbie Mealer has high hopes for her transformation, which is more than cosmetic.
Mealer wants to smile more. She hates her teeth -- not just how they look, but how they work.
"The lower part of my teeth hit the top part of my mouth," she said.
She says it hurts to chew and talk. Old bridge work is falling out and Mealer's missing several teeth.
Dr. Steven Andreaus, a Raleigh cosmetic dentist, says dental makeovers on TV are not that extreme.
"Actually that's every day stuff," he said. "We're looking for a natural restoration that's functional, number one, and number two, it looks good."
Before beginning any procedure, Andreaus checks for any signs of oral cancer or gum disease.
"Without a thorough exam, you may be getting a new smile that actually has some periodontal concerns," he warned.
Andreaus has big plans for Mealer. He will open her bite so her teeth do not hit her mouth.
"All of a sudden her smile won't be so bucky," he said.
Mealer also needs new bridge work, porcelain crowns and veneers.
"I hope that the smile is warm, that I smile more often at people -- that I'm smiling with my teeth," she said.
Mealer's first treatment takes seven hours. It is the first in a series of appointments. Still, the changes are enough to bring her to tears.
Over the next three weeks, Mealer will have teeth pulled, a bone graft, and implants. She has taken the first step to a new smile.
"It's more than I anticipated," she said.
If you are thinking of having cosmetic dentistry, it is important to find an experienced dentist. Check to see if he or she is certified by the
American Dental Association
American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry
. It is also important to ask to see before and after pictures of patients they have treated.