Imagine this: You meet a sexy girl. She's flirty and can even hold a conversation about Madden 2009. Then you smile, and all she notices are your unsightly mustard-colored chompers — and she's gone in a flash. Here's how to keep this nightmare from happening.
Even if you rocked a mouth full of metal as a teen, there's a chance you could use a minor realignment. "After you get your braces off and continue growing, your teeth may continue to move," says Robert Gerlach, a dental researcher at Proctor & Gamble. "Invisalign [a noninvasive straightening procedure] is often ideal for people needing minor readjustments." Another method is to get veneers. These porcelain layers are placed on top of a faulty or damaged tooth to improve its look. For more serious problems, consider going high-tech. Some dental offices now offer a straightening procedure called SureSmile, which is done with wires strategically placed by computer. (It cuts the time and pain of braces in half.)
If you drink coffee, wine, or soda, your teeth have probably seen better days. Lightening them a couple of shades will immediately improve your smile. Check out Crest's new Advanced Seal Whitestrips ($50). They grip tightly to the tooth surface so you can pop them on before your workout or while playing basketball.
"Most bad breath occurs because of bacteria that grows on the surface of the tongue," says Gerlach. To avoid it, he recommends scraping the tongue with either a toothbrush or a tongue scraper. "Better breath is a result of combining a good toothbrush, quality paste, and mouth rinse," he says. In a study where patients used a combination of those three products, they saw a 35% reduction in bad breath.