Sally Hall: No more shocks but all smiles for a change in appearance

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For the last six months or so I’ve been sporting both a lisp and a trout pout.

Despite being somewhat inhibited in both aesthetics and function for half a year, however, I would say that getting braces put on my teeth was one of the better things I managed to tick off my ‘to-do’ list in 2013.

Definitely more exciting than getting new guttering put on the roof, anyway – although it did involve a similar level of rooting about in hidden nooks and crannies that normally go unmolested for months at a time.

(‘Of course I floss at least twice a day,’ I lied to the dentist. Apart from Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, is anyone really so enamoured with dental floss that they would fettle around in their mouths with bits of string in the morning AND at bedtime?)

Happily, the system worked its magic within the promised six months – and on the whole the experience was a good one.

I must admit, I was a bit worried how I’d fare over Christmas if the braces didn’t come off in time....specifically, would I manage to tear off Sellotape with my encumbered teeth?

But by the time I was ready to embark on my annual five-hour gift-wrapping marathon, they had thankfully been removed and I could gnaw at the tape with abandon.

For years I’ve been self-conscious about my crooked smile. Now my teeth are straighter, I don’t feel any different...except maybe a little more confident when expressing myself.

On balance, I’d say it was worth the months of being unable to pronounce ‘Mississippi’ and several embarrassing entanglements with apple cores to feel happier when grinning or giggling.

And I’m not alone in hoping to change the aesthetics of my smile. It was reported last week that more than 100,000 people in the UK tried tooth whitening treatments last year.

I’ve been wary of tooth whitening since watching the episode of Friends where Ross bleached his gnashers in the hope of impressing his date – then terrified her as he lunged in for a kiss, lit up like a toothy monster by a UV light in her flat.

In general, there’s not much that’s sexy about squeezing hydrogen peroxide on a plastic tooth-mask and shoving it over your gums while you sleep.

There have also been studies showing that whitening kits can cause damage to the teeth and gums. Having said that, I’ve seen some stunning results. Like my friends Steve and Charlie, a gay couple whose aesthetic appeal ranks pretty high on the Gosling-ometer.

Of course, the buff, bronzed bodies and dazzling smiles of these handsome men comes at a price – which I witnessed to my amusement one night while staying at their flat in London.

Wearing identical teeth guards oozing with bleach, the pair twitched on the sofa in their designer pyjamas as flesh-coloured cummerbunds delivered electric shocks direct to their stomach muscles while they watched Coronation Street.

It was an amusing sight, and I was quick to tease. But when I ventured a request to try the electric abdominal belt for myself, they got their revenge. Gleefully, they turned the belt up to max and strapped it on tight, then fell about laughing as I writhed in agony and bounced around the flat like a ping-pong ball, begging them to undo it

There’s only so much pain a person should be willing to take for the sake of appearance, after all. And feeling like you’ve stuck your finger in a plug socket isn’t an acceptable level, as far as I’m concerned.

All in all, I’m very happy with my new smile. But I won’t be planning any further torments for 2014. No detox diets, no punishing gym routine, no meal-replacement shakes. And definitely no electric shocks.

Sarah Champion MP

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