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    I Want a Confident Smile

    continued...

    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:

    BRIGHTEN UP
    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.

    STRAIGHT TALK
    PROBLEM:
    Crooked teeth
    FAST FIX: 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.

    HIGH STREET
    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."

    How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

    Number of Days Per Week I Floss

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    You are currently

    Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

    You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

    You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

    Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

    SOURCES:

    American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

    This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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