I Want a Confident Smile
The physical pain that April morning was nothing. (Then again, unlike most drama tweens, I had childbirth as a comparison.) After the good doc glued clear (though not invisible) ceramic brackets on my top teeth (old-school silver shiners covered the bottom), my husband grabbed me that night and playfully leered, "Wanna make out, braceface?" I mean, really, it was hilarious: 37 years old and slicing corn off the cob and avoiding egg salad and balling up bits of wax to cover the stabby intruders. Of course, it wasn't always funny. Take the day I played tennis with some fancy acquaintances at a local country club. One lame flub of the ball — which then careened into my face — and my whites bled red. Pride, shredded cheeks — it all hurt.
Six months in and with two months to go, I'm cool with it. Sure, I wear more eye makeup and less lipstick, and I absolutely miss red wine and curry and coffee-without-consequence (those clear rubber bands stain!). Flossing is a nightmare, as is hauling a toothbrush out and about (though not as bad as forgetting it, especially after a meal involving spinach).
Mostly, though, I just feel fortunate to be able to buy my way back to the pretty. As my orthodontist says, I have a big smile. I've missed it. You can't tell a proper dirty joke without one.
GRIN AND BARE IT: D.I.Y. DENTISTRY
"There's a backlash to that blinding Hollywood smile," says cosmetic dentist Dr. Marc Lowenberg. "People now want perfectly imperfect teeth: more translucent color, slight asymmetry, even a few minor chips." Here, the latest smile upgrades:
PROBLEM: Stains and discoloration
FAST FIX: Pola+ (about $1200), an hour-long in-office treatment that doesn't require a light or laser (which can heighten sensitivity) to activate the peroxide in the gel.
Veneers (about $1500 to $2200 a tooth) in custom-blended shades: "If your skin has cool undertones, it needs a cooler white shade; warm tones work best with warmer white," says NYC dentist Dr. Jennifer Jablow.
PROBLEM: Sagging cheeks
FAST FIX: Expanding the back segments of the upper teeth a few millimeters (with veneers or Invisalign tray braces) results in a mini face-lift, explains Jablow. "The wider bite creates a tighter scaffold for the lower third of the face, so skin drapes tighter."