I bring you a warning. Don't do what I did. A few weeks ago my mouth was a pretty revolting place to visit. Years of smoking, red wine and coffee left my teeth looking as though life itself had wiped its arse on them.
Recently I jacked in the smokes and decided to continue this mad self-improvement binge by visiting the dentist to get my teeth whitened. This turned out to be the vainest, stupidest decision of my life.
I thought I knew how cosmetic tooth-whitening works: they smear goo on your teeth, shine some sort of laser at it, and bingo! ... you walk away with the nuclear smile of a top US soap star.
The dentist explained my teeth might feel a bit sensitive during the procedure, but so what? I'm no nine-year-old girl. Honest, I'm not. How painful could it be?
The process itself consisted of three 15-minute sessions under the magic light punctuated by five-minute breaks.
Session one passed without incident. I felt a strange tightening sensation in my canines, but that was it. Shortly into the second session, I felt a sharp, sudden pain in one of my teeth.
Ever bitten into a choc ice with sensitive teeth? Take that sensation and multiply it by 10. Then imagine it lasting far longer, and occurring without warning. I writhed in the chair, tears filling my eyes.
"That's the sensitivity I was talking about," said the dentist, patting me on the arm.
The pain gradually ebbed away. "I can ride this out," I thought.
A few moments passed. Another tooth fired off. Then another. Then another. Every 30 seconds, another twist of the knife. Longer, sharper, more Marathon Man with each fresh zinger.
By the end I was no longer thinking about "riding this out". I wasn't thinking at all. I was somewhere beyond language. I was a confused animal. I was not of this Earth. Part of me went missing that day, and I doubt I'll ever get it back.
As the dentist took the light away and removed the clamp holding my gob open, I floated down from the high plateau, back into my body, back from wherever I'd gone to - only to be racked by another twinge.
"Don't worry," said the dentist, "your teeth'll only do that for a little while."
How little? "About 48 hours," she said. "I'd take some Nurofen if I were you."
I staggered across the road to Boots. While begging for Nurofen, another tooth went off, which meant I actually asked for "Nurofaaaaaaaaaaaah" instead. For the rest of the day I sat at home, demented, oral firecrackers exploding at random intervals. I contemplated running outside and tossing my head under a bus. Anything to make it stop. Eventually, my torment subsided. Now I have proper pearly-whites. I can smile at passers-by without making them puke. But frankly, I'd rather have smashed my teeth out with a hammer and had them replaced with falsies.
Here endeth the warning. Don't do what I did. Stay brown. Stay sane.