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Service with a smile is hard to deliver with bad teeth

Dear Abby: I have a problem of my own making. When I was a young child/teenager, I never brushed my teeth. Because of it, the enamel on my teeth eroded and I have cavities, really bad ones. Add to that a desperate fear of dentists, and my teeth are in horrible shape now. When I smile, my front teeth are mostly black. I work in customer service. I’m too young to have awful teeth, and I’m ashamed.

I saw a dentist recently and I have made appointments to have my dental issues addressed, but it’s expensive and it won’t be for a few months. I have never been so aware of how bad my teeth are as I am now, and I consciously keep myself from smiling. It makes working in customer service really hard because I’m constantly thinking, “Don’t let them see your teeth.” But even when I’m just talking, I know people can see them.

It’s impossible to say, “I know my teeth are disgusting, but I’m getting them fixed, so please don’t judge me” to every person I meet, but I very much feel like doing so. I’m a socially anxious person anyway and this is killing my already poor social skills. I need advice.

– Hiding My Smile in New Jersey

Dear Hiding: I have addressed the importance of good oral hygiene in this column before, so I won’t belabor it. For the sake of your overall physical health, I’m very glad you have finally decided to deal with your dental problem. It will pay big dividends in the future.

For the time being, having set up appointments to get your dental work done, you are doing all you can. If you weren’t good at your job, you wouldn’t have lasted at it for as long as you have. When customers come to you for help, they are less interested in your teeth than in what you can do to solve their problems, so you shouldn’t let yourself be sidetracked by what they “might” think about them. Do your job, keep those dental appointments religiously, and your problems will solve themselves.

Overprotective of home

Dear Abby: Over the past month or so, I find myself being super territorial about my home and the things that are in it. This is my first apartment on my own after having had a roommate for three years.

Recently, my significant other got sick, and he was constantly here because I had to take care of him. Also, my family was here over the holidays. I didn’t want anyone in my room or using my bathroom – not even my sick boyfriend.

Part of the reason was he was sick and, secondly, he was keeping me up at night using my master bath every five minutes. Working long hours, then having to come home and take care of a man who was hardheaded about his health was exhausting. I needed my space and to rest.

Could this be why I don’t want anyone in my home? I feel bad about being this way, especially toward my own family and boyfriend.

– Super Territorial

Dear Territorial: By now you should have been able to get some rest, so I hesitate to blame fatigue for your feelings. I suspect they may have more to do with the fact that this is the first home in which you are living independently, and you want to keep it pristine. People often feel the same way when they buy a new car.

Write Dear Abby at DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 60069.