Smiling is a universal act of happiness understood by people all over the world.
But what happens when people are embarrassed by their teeth or ashamed of a malocclusion?
Carol Knaup, a former
Sequim resident and graduate, was that person growing up. "I was completely handicapped by how I looked," she admitted.
Then a Port Angeles orthodontist fixed the improper positioning of Knaup's teeth and set into motion the groundwork for what eventually would become her career and passion. "I felt like he saved my life. He took me from feeling like a freak to looking like a normal person," she credited the doctor.
Now, as an adult and orthodontist, Knaup helps create picture perfect smiles to be proud of. "Studies show that people value appearance and the smile is one thing people focus in on," she said. "A person's smile can affect their confidence and even their ability to get a job."
Interestingly enough, orthodontics wasn't Knaup's first career. After high school, she attended nursing school and worked in the field for several years before deciding to go back to school and study dentistry.
Once enrolled in the dental program at the University of Washington, Knaup decided to do what she'd been dreaming about since she was a young and impressionable girl sitting in the exam chair under a bright light with her mouth held open wide: specialize in orthodontics.
At the time, Knaup said, it was very hard to get accepted into the orthodontics program at the UW. Only six students from five states and one foreign country were accepted each year, a challenge that motivated her to study night and day.
With her Doctor of Dental Surgery and Master of Science diplomas in hand, Knaup went to work at a clinic on Mercer Island in 1994, which she eventually bought.
Almost 15 years later, Knaup decided it was time for a change. She sold the Mercer Island business to a longtime employee and decided to move back to Sequim and open Sequim Valley Smiles.
"It's my home and it feels good to be home," Knaup said about Sequim, that she moved to in the third grade. "I'm too young to retire and I've always had it in my mind to ease my way back into Sequim. When I started looking, it all fell into place easily."
Although she was born in Ketchikan, Alaska, Knaup said she considers Sequim her hometown. It's where she grew up, where she graduated from high school and where her brothers and sisters live.
An orthodontist in Sequim is in high demand, according to Knaup. As it stands, patients travel to Port Angeles for orthodontia needs. "With traffic becoming more and more of an issue, people are looking for something closer to home," she said. "And there's no other orthodontist here. I'm it."
In additional to braces, retainers and functional orthopedic appliances, Knaup has experience with Invisalign, a relatively new and innovative system that uses clear "aligners" and 3-D computer technology to straighten teeth. From a foot away, the aligners appear "invisible."
"It's an amazing way to move teeth," said Knaup, who is a "premiere provider," which means she has worked with hundreds of patients using Invisalign.
Impressions of a patient's teeth are taken, digitized and analyzed. A prescription is written for which teeth need to move, how much and where. Clear aligners are made, worn and switched every two weeks, forcing the teeth to move gradually, Knaup explained. "The biology is very similar to what braces do," she said. "It's revolutionary and costs about the same as braces."
Some dentists say Invisalign doesn't work, but she knows from experience that it does, Knaup said firmly.
The Sequim Gazette is located at 147 W. Washington Street in Sequim.
Business hours are Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Phone 360-683-3311, or toll free at 800-829-5810. FAX 360-683-6670.
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