If your smile doesn’t look as good as you’d like it to, then it can have a devastating effect upon your overall confidence. After all, a bright, friendly smile is like a calling card and an invitation for others to speak and relate to you, and the thought that your smile is going to let you down can be ruinous to your confidence levels. Not being able to smile, laugh and talk freely means not being able to relax, and if you can relax then other people won’t be able to relax around you, a problem in social and professional situations. There are steps that you can take to make the most of your smile, however, and most of them revolve around taking the time to step back for a second and think about what it is you’re doing exactly when you smile. There’s really no such thing as just ‘a smile’, there are many different types of smile, from the subtle smirk to the slight smile which shows just a glimpse of teeth to the wide open grin which flashes everything you’ve got. One tip is to stand in front of a mirror practicing different types of smile and deciding which the best look is for you. Even if you’re extremely self-conscious about your teeth, try to get used to showing at least a little bit of them when you smile since, in everyday life, a smile is a natural, unforced event and one which should be a genuine expression of happiness and friendliness. Remember that looking confident, happy and relaxed will always be just as attractive, if not more, than being able to flash technically perfect teeth. It should also be borne in mind that you don’t only smile with your teeth. Look at someone when they are spontaneously smiling at something which has pleased or amused them and you’ll see that their eyes light up every bit as much as their smile. If you’ve ever seen someone giving a smile which didn’t extend as far up the face as their eyes you can’t have helped but notice that the smile in question looked forced, faked and unappealing. Try looking in a mirror and smiling with just your mouth, not your eyes, and you’ll see how bad it looks. Then try crinkling your eyes a little more when you smile and let that become part of your ‘routine’. In truth, the best way of making sure you smile with your whole face is to be happy in the company of people you feel relaxed around – it’s a virtuous circle; the more relaxed you are, the easier you’ll find it to smile and then the more relaxed the people you’re with will be, thus making you want to smile even more! Another tactic, designed to ease the pressure you feel about your smile, and therefor to make you feel more relaxed as a whole, is to find ways of distracting people’s attention away from it. A stunning new haircut, some beautiful jewellery or a dazzling fashion statement will do the trick, but anything which draws people’s attention away from your mouth will help you to relax. The key to all of these tips can be summed up in one word – practice. Practice smiling in front of the mirror before you leave the house in the morning, opening your lips just the right amount and engaging your eyes. Before you know it, the smile that you’ve perfected will come naturally, allowing you to relax and be yourself without consciously thinking about it. Despite all of this, however, there is still the option of actually changing the physical appearance of your teeth. The first and simplest means of doing this is to make sure that your teeth are as clean as possible. Brush and floss them twice a day and use a mouthwash to make sure the job is done properly. Not only will all of this ensure that your teeth look as clean and white as possible, but it will also greatly reduce the risk of developing cavities through tooth decay. Another tip which produces the same results is to visit your dentist every six months for a check-up and to have your teeth cleaned by a hygienist. This will also have the advantage of making sure that you are taught the correct methods of brushing and flossing. If the main concern you have over your teeth is the fact that they are not white enough, then ask your dentists about teeth whitening treatments. Although it is possible to buy at home whitening kits over the counter, the chemicals involved are extremely strong and, if not used properly, can result in painful damage to the gums. It is always best, therefor, to whiten your teeth under the auspices of an experienced and qualified dentist. Many of the treatments now involve applications which the patient can make use of on their own home, thus allowing treatment to be fitted conveniently into a busy lifestyle, and some are so effective that they achieve results after just one visit to the clinic. In severe cases of staining, when even the strongest bleaches will only have a minimal effect, your dentist may recommend having veneers fitted. Veneers are often referred to as ‘false nails for the teeth’ and are wafer thin porcelain shells which exactly mirror the shape and size of the tooth or teeth being treated. When cemented onto the front of the teeth being treated, they completely cover any discolouration, and can also be used to correct small gaps. If the problem with your smile is that the teeth are crooked, overcrowded or protrude in an unsightly manner, then you may be offered the option of having orthodontic braces fitted. Braces can shift the actual position of teeth in a gradual and natural manner, until the smile you have is the one you’ve always wanted. Although some people may be put off by the thought of having an unsightly piece of metal cemented to their teeth, it should be understood that modern orthodontic braces are much more lightweight and less obtrusive than they used to be, and that options such as the Invisalign system are actually extremely well described by the phrase ‘invisible braces’. If the idea of treatment such as this appeals to you, then have a chat with your dentist and orthodontist. Tell them what you’d like to achieve and they’ll draw up a plan combining treatments such as veneers, whitening and braces, working closely with you to achieve the confidence boosting results you desire. The last tip for making the most of your smile sounds like the simplest but can actually be the most difficult and it’s this: be confident. Easier said than done, yes, but if you can embrace and celebrate any flaws in your smile rather than allowing them to get you down, it will go a long way towards allowing you to stop worrying about other people judging you. Think of someone like Madonna, and the way the gap in her teeth did nothing whatsoever to hold her back in her career. The same could be said of a younger star like Anna Paquin, who positively revels in the sizeable gap between her front teeth. Another factor in building the confidence you have in your smile is simply to not think about it too much. If you stop yourself in a stilted and self-conscious manner every time you hear or see something that makes you want it smile, then it will have a far more negative impact upon the impression you create then any flaws in the physical condition of your teeth. Every individual is different, and the key to being happy with your smile is to take the pieces of the above advice which work for you and apply them. Working side by side with a sympathetic dentist you’ll be able to transform your appearance, and attitude, until you finally have the smile you’ve always dreamed of.