WHEN Cheryl Cole was voted Woman Of The Year at the 2010 Glamour Awards, she didn't just thank her fans, mum, manager – she thanked her dentist.
Understandable, I suppose if it's your job to regularly flash a smile for the cameras.
When it comes to the glamour stakes, it seems gleaming gnashers are an asset. Just look on the internet and you will find plenty of before and after photos of celebrities (everyone from footballers and singers to models and actors), who are opening wide and going "aaaarh" in the quest for pearly whites.
But what about the rest of us? How can we get a dazzling smile? Not all of us can fork out thousands for Towie-style veneers – and, of course, not all of us want to sport whopping white teeth that resemble the keys on a Yamaha grand piano.
Today, I'm visiting dental practitioner Dr Rehanna Ibragimova for a smile makeover at the Old Vicarage Dental Surgery in Barnstaple. I'm having a teeth whitening procedure she calls Safe Whitening.
"Many people are concerned that whitening would make their teeth look too artificial," she says.
"Safe Whitening just enhances natural beauty, and makes the teeth lighter and whiter. It won't change the shape of the teeth though, so it still would be your own teeth, just whiter and shinier."
In my first appointment, she assesses my teeth to see if they are suitable for whitening and gives me an Air Flow Polish, a thorough clean which removes food and drink stains.
She then takes impressions of my teeth using alginate, a natural product widely used in orthodontics.
On my second visit she checks the general health of my gums and shows me how to use a pair of custom-made shields which fit perfectly over my teeth. I am to load these at home using a whitening gel with an active ingredient called carbamide peroxide.
"It does not destroy the enamel, it just penetrates in its pores and neutralises the stains," she says.
"Compared to hydrogen peroxide, carbamide peroxide is safer, as it consists of hydrogen peroxide and urea, which makes it stable, and its action is delayed, which causes less sensitivity."
According to Rehanna, carbamide peroxide is safe and effective, even though the results take a little longer to show.
"The shield is custom made, and fits your teeth and gum line perfectly, which reduces the gel's contact with soft tissues to a minimum," she says.
It's easy enough to use at home and after a couple of days of applying the gel for around 30 minutes (sometimes overnight), I can see the effects. After around 10 days, my less-than-radiant, butter-coloured teeth have a definite natural-looking white hue. It's not such a dazzling white that I blind everyone in the office, but it's certainly enough to make me feel a lot more confident about grinning, laughing and generally looking as happy as I feel. My smile looks fresher, cleaner and brighter. I love it.
"I love bringing a smile to people's faces," says Rehanna. "I whiten my teeth, too, and my patients often say: 'I want teeth like yours'. I say: Why not?"
People often have Safe Whitening before events such as weddings, although getting ready for a special occasion is not the only reason people want it done.
"Very often it can just make someone feel better about themselves," she says.
"Patients who have their teeth whitened often say: 'I wish I'd done it before', or 'It is the best thing I've ever done'."
As well as a gleaming smile, Rehanna offers what she calls facial and dental aesthetics (wrinkle reducing injections, dermal fillers, excessive sweating treatment and teeth restorations including the veneers and lumineers associated with the Hollywood smile). She will also give your smile a sparkle by fixing a trendy Swarowsky crystal to one of your teeth.
"I started considering having anti-ageing injections myself," she says. "I qualified in it because I wanted to know how things work. And, as said before, I like bringing a smile to people's faces, and help them to feel better about themselves. It's not about being a model from the magazine's cover. I don't change faces, I just enhance people's natural beauty."
And if facial injections conjure images of immobile visages of middle-aged movie stars, she wants to put your mind at rest.
"Some people think that facial injections would give them a weird look. No! That frozen look belongs to the past. The usual feedback our patients get is 'you look well' or 'have you been on holiday?'."
Teeth whitening is £262.50, a tooth gem is £35. Other facial aesthetics are individual and the cost would be discussed during consultation. The Old Vicarage Dental Surgery: 01271 342113.