Ten Ways to Look Younger

Easy and (almost) painless ways to take a decade off your age. No knives, epic costs, or recovery time required. Yes, really.

Beige and ecru may be hot colors for spring wardrobes, but not for teeth. Studies have shown that your smile is often the first thing people notice when meeting you. (And fair or not, they tend to believe that the brighter your smile, the smarter, nicer, more attractive, and more capable you must be.) “The unfortunate inference that gets made subconsciously is, If this person can’t take care of their oral hygiene, then they likely won’t treat me very well, either,” says Dr. Steven Spitz of Smileboston Cosmetic and Implant Dentistry in Brookline.

If a dingy set of noshers doesn’t do you any favors in the first-impressions department, it does even less in the youthful-impressions department; people associate darker teeth with older age. That’s despite the fact that, according to Spitz, darkening isn’t a clinical factor — it’s actually caused by wine, tea, coffee, and the staining foods that we consume over the course of a lifetime.

Thankfully, there’s an arsenal of weapons against discoloration. There are, of course, the well-known whitening options: strips (which can take months to actually work) and take-home trays (same deal). Spitz offers the trays — as do most dentists — but notes that many patients don’t have the fortitude to stick to the regimen for the several weeks it can take. “If you’re not consistent, it’s not going to work,” he explains.

All of which makes a strong case for laser whitening. Spitz has settled on the Zoom! whitening system, which uses concentrated light to activate a gel that penetrates the teeth and breaks up stains; after four 15-minute sessions, most smiles are an average of eight shades whiter. Ours was three shades whiter — though to be fair, we’d already been longtime take-home-tray addicts, and didn’t think we could possibly get any pearlier. We stand corrected. $450; Smileboston cosmetic and implant dentistry, 1180 Beacon st., Ste. 2b, Brookline, 617-277-4100, smileboston.com.
Mom, it turns out, really did know best. At least when it came to slouching. “Improving posture not only looks better aesthetically, but if your posture is better, you’ll live longer and have lower chances of chronic diseases,” says Woburn-based chiropractor Dr. Scott Fuller. Sound like an overstatement? He begs to differ: “The science indicates that if your posture deteriorates, your overall health deteriorates.”

Bad posture accelerates degenerative processes of the spine, spinal joints, and surrounding soft tissues, says Fuller. That, in turn, hurts the general functions of the nervous system. Some of this back abuse happens every day while we peck away on our computers — because we tend to slouch for better screen viewing. In fact, sitting in a slumped position puts up to 170 pounds of pressure per square inch on the spine. Over time, that’s sort of like having dental braces that are pulling your teeth in the wrong direction.

In his book, Happy Back, Fuller argues that the first line of defense against spinal disaster is what he terms ergonomic awareness — i.e., paying attention to how we use our bodies in everyday situations. He stresses the importance of “sitting aerobics” (simple bends and wiggles that release spinal tension), and most of all, taking frequent sitting breaks. “Spinal joints and spinal disks need lubrication, and they get lubrication from motion. Sitting all day is like not getting oil into the engine of a car.” Fuller recommends getting out of your chair (even if it’s expensive and specially designed) for at least 10 seconds every 15 minutes. That’s enough time to give your back a much-needed respite and keep you out of slump-induced chronic pain.