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“Why don’t you fix your teeth?”

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Ryanne Jones, seen here at 22, promised herself she would give her son the health care she'd lacked growing up. "If it meant that I barely ate for a week, that kid went to his yearly checkup." Courtesy: Ryanne Jones

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For Ryanne Jones, every job interview went the same way. 

Things would start off really well, then, out of nowhere, she’d feel the air get sucked out of the room. It all came down to a single moment.

“That’s when I smiled, that’s when I relaxed and really smiled,” she said. Jones realized “Crap, it’s my teeth.”

Her two front teeth were brown and broken — the result of a few factors. 

Jones grew up in a mining town where tooth decay was pretty common. When she was 11, a friend accidentally hit her in the mouth with a hammer, severely chipping her two front teeth. Plus, her parents never had money for consistent dental care. As much as Jones wanted straight white teeth as a kid, a solution was always out of reach.

By the time Jones was an adult, one of her broken front teeth had been reduced to a rotting stump, and her other teeth were crooked and chipped.

Jones spent years bouncing between jobs in call centers, warehouses and fast food. As a single mom making $9 an hour, she became set on starting a higher-paying career. But, Jones realized, people read a lot in a smile. Enough to hold you back. 

This week on the show: How one woman’s smile became a marker of poverty, and the years she spent trying to escape it.

If you liked this episode of “This Is Uncomfortable,” tell your friend who’s afraid of blowing a job interview. It’s not their fault.

And by the way, we’re working on our second annual Halloween episode and seeking your money horror stories! If you have one, hit us up! Our email is uncomfortable@marketplace.org, or you can fill out the form below.

For more “This Is Uncomfortable,” don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter. We have more stories plus recommendations from our team. Here’s the latest issue, in case you missed it.

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