Solo mum of seven Sonya, from Enderley in Hamilton, says her life has been turned around by free dental care provided recently by the Revive a Smile charity dental bus.
Earlier this month she received the finishing touch to her treatment: a new set of dentures to complete her transformation.
Sonya is one of hundreds of people helped by the Revive a Smile in the last year.
Hundreds more will benefit from treatments again this summer, as the bus travels between South Auckland, Waikato and the Hawkes Bay.
The 37 year old says that, before she discovered Revive a Smile, she was in constant pain and acutely embarrassed by her teeth.
"I tried never to smile and, if I laughed in front of anyone I covered my mouth with my hand," she says.
"I was taking tons of paracetamol to dull the pain but sometimes they didn't work."
Sonya went to a dentist to find out how much it would cost to treat the decay in her mouth.
"When they told me it would be over $5000 I decided I would just have to live with it. There was no way I could afford that."
One day last summer Sonya saw people coming and going from the Revive a Smile dental charity bus parked near her house.
She went along to see what it was all about.
"I filled in an application right there and a couple of weeks later my treatments began."
Revive a Smile founder, dental specialist Dr Assil Russell, and her colleagues cleaned Sonya's teeth, gave her several fillings and removed those teeth that couldn't be saved.
"They were amazing," says Sonya. "They were kind and careful and they always made sure I wasn't in pain."
The charity gave her a lot of support and information throughout the process, she and have followed up with her since she received her new dentures to make sure they are comfortable.
The devoted mum struggles to find words to express how much she appreciates the care she received.
"Just plain awesome is not enough," she says. "I love to laugh and smile in front of people now. I'm smiling all the time."
And Sonya has become an ambassador for good oral hygiene, using her experience as an example to her children, friends and family.
"I show them my mouth and photos from before," she says. "I tell them this is what you'll get if you don't take care of your teeth."