As a child, I spent more time than most in the dentist’s chair. For reasons I won’t bore you with, my adult teeth formed with bubbles of gas in them, so they are inherently weaker than they should be and I had double-digit fillings by the time I was 12. When I was no longer the responsibility of my parents, visits to the dentist stopped. I knew I should go, but there was always something more fashionable to spend my money on.

Then, at 27, my carelessness caught up with me. Three days before my wedding, I woke up with a throbbing pain on the left side of my face. A problematic tooth I should have dealt with months ago had flared up. I begrudgingly went to the dentist. He said my tooth needed to come out, but since I was flying to Bali for my honeymoon in less than a week he wasn’t prepared to extract it. Instead, he send me home with antibiotics. By the morning of my wedding, I had slept only five hours in three days and my face was so swollen, even my bridesmaids couldn’t console me. I spent the morning with ice wrapped in a napkin stuck to my cheek and took such strong painkillers that my memory of that day is still pretty hazy.

Surprisingly, it wasn’t this latest tooth trauma that prompted my return to the dentist; it was vanity. They say that, like rings in a tree trunk, your hands give away your age, but, as I was beginning to realize, it’s your teeth. The yellow hue that creeps in as your enamel wears down is one telltale sign, but the shape of your teeth is another tipoff. “Young teeth have a rounded edge and little triangles of space between the teeth called embrasures,” explains Dr. Sol Weiss, a Toronto-based dentist. “As you get older, those rounded edges become flat and the embrasures disappear.” Even with your mouth closed, worn teeth will still age you because they are part of your facial support structure. If your teeth are worn down or missing—as would soon be the case for me—your skin will sag. Translation: If I don’t fix my teeth, Botox, peels and serums won’t spare me my Dorian Gray comeuppance.

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anti-age-your-teeth-2.jpgAfter my honeymoon, I found myself once again back at my dentist’s office, nervously flicking though magazines. As soon as I met him, I apologized for my oral failings. He told me to relax, he had seen worse; he even opened files on his computer to show me some rather gruesome cases of people who have more gum than teeth. Eventually, I let him take a look. “It’s really not that bad,” he said, and I loved him for it, even though I was pretty sure he was lying. He took some X-rays; the verdict wasn’t good. Aside from a few “minor” repairs, I needed two, possibly three, dental implants. First, I’d need the bad teeth taken out, and then the implant specialist would insert metal screws into my jawbone and eventually give me shiny new teeth. Price tag: $4,800. I didn’t even want to think about how many Manolos or LV handbags I’d have to forsake because of my carelessness. I imagine what I was feeling was similar to an alcoholic at an AA meeting: “Hi, my name is Jenny. I’m a serial teeth abuser and I need help.” I was ashamed, but I felt stirrings of hope. The first step was the hygienist. The session was an hour long, and by the end I felt as if I’d been punched in the face. Repeatedly. Next up, I met the implant specialist. “I hear you’re nervous,” he said. “More embarrassed,” I mumbled. He delivered the news: I’d need three implants. He extracted the damaged teeth and scanned to check that I had enough jawbone for the implants. Postappointment, I headed back to the office feeling somewhat remorseful.

A month later, I was back in his office to have the screws inserted. Eight to 12 weeks later, once the screws had grafted onto the bone, I returned to have the false teeth placed on top of the implants. After my last few experiences, my nerves were getting the better of me. Although it was possible to be sedated for the operation, I opted to stay awake. To keep my mind distracted, the nurse suggested I watch a film. As the specialist drilled into my jaw, Robert Downey Jr. was blasting his way out of a terrorist base camp in Iron Man. Eight minutes and a few stitches later, we were done. I didn’t look as much like a Bond villain as I had feared. There was considerable pain for a few days, but pain medication and several tubs of dark-chocolate ice cream helped.

Three months later, it was time for my new teeth to be mounted. One hour later I had a mouthful of flawless, beautiful teeth—I didn’t know where to put my tongue. Which meant there was only one thing left to do: open up and smile.

The "Grin" Truth

Whiten, straighten or snap on a new smile with the latest treatments.

Zoom! teeth whitening
The dentist applies a peroxide gel and shines an ultraviolet light on teeth to brighten them up to 10 shades.
Price: $700–$1,000

Snap-On Smile For a less-expensive, commitment-free alternative to veneers, a custom set of “clip-on” teeth made of dental resin can cover discolouration and increase tooth size.
Price: $2,000–$3,000

Invisalign A clear, removable aligner is placed over teeth to gradually straighten them. Bonus: They now double as at-home whitening trays.
Price: $5,000–$8,000

Gum sculpting & Botox To fix a gummy smile, a laser is used to cut excess tissue, revealing more of the teeth. Targeted Botox injections can also reduce movement of the upper lip so that less of the gum is exposed.
Price: $500–$1,500

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Go Smile Touch Up Ampoules ($12 for a set of seven)

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Radius Natural Cranberry Floss ($4.95)

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