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24 May 2024

The Psychology of Smile Aesthetics: How Teeth Shape Our Self-Esteem

Smiling is one of the most common traits that all human possess since birth. This single action can be used to convey specific emotions, to demonstrate amusement, and to signal feelings of ease within specific situations. 

Interestingly enough, research has recently discovered that a handful of other animals are capable of this form of communication. Higher primates such as orangutans and chimpanzees can smile. Some feel that dogs have learned to mimic human smiles. 

It is therefore clear to see that smiling is an important evolutionary trait, perhaps one of the most essential forms of communication before spoken language developed. 

This is why the appearance of a smile can have a massive impact upon how we are perceived by others, and ultimately, our self-esteem. Let’s take a more detailed look at this decidedly interesting topic.

Are There Different Types of Smiles?

Much like orthodontic treatments, there is no such thing as a “one-size-fits-all” smile. How we display our pearly whites will primarily depend on the situation in question.

For instance, spontaneous smiling takes place when we are presented with a scenario that we find funny or amusing (such as hearing a joke for the first time). This is also when the brain releases a feel-good hormone known as dopamine (one of the reasons why smiling tends to ease sensations of anger, sadness, and anxiety).

Another type of smile known as a “social smile” is likewise common. These smiles are primarily used when interacting with others. Note here that social smiles do not necessarily have to arise from genuine emotions. They can instead be used at times to put others at ease or to signal that you are interested in a specific topic. Social smiles nonetheless affect how we are perceived by those around us. 

Emotional smiling is the truest  form. As you might have guessed, these smiles reflect a deep sense of happiness and satisfaction. They can also occur alongside sensations of love, attraction, and utter contentment. 

Emotional smiles cause the release of a neurotransmitter known as oxytocin. Oxytocin is associated with sensations of elation and even ecstasy. 

The Crucial Role of Psychology

We can now see that smiling represents one of the most fundamental forms of unspoken human communication. This is why it also stands to reason that the appearance of a smile can have an impact upon how we perceive ourselves. Let’s examine what psychologists have uncovered. 

How We are Feeling

Of course, smiling will directly affect our mood thanks to the chemicals that are released by the brain. This is important for several reasons. Those who feel at ease with their surroundings are more likely to enjoy positive interactions with others. They also tend to be less stressed within the workplace and capable of performing adequately under pressure. Simply stated, smiling can provide us with some surprising practical advantages in day-to-day life. 

Social Settings

Others will often “mirror” a smile when one is directed at them. The same phenomenon has been witnessed in primates, and for good reason. This type of interaction can help to build an interpersonal rapport while signaling to others that we are open to communicate. 

This is the very same reason why individuals who do not smile seem to be aloof and, at times, even passively aggressive. It therefore pays to show off a straight set of teeth if you hope to go far in the world. 

Confidence and Self-Esteem

How is smiling related to self-esteem? Some feel that smiling is linked to social acceptance, and therefore, how we perceive ourselves around others. Some interesting research also seems to back up these observations. 

For example, a candidate who makes it a point to smile during a job interview is more likely to leave a lasting impression and to exude a sense of professional confidence. Both of these are highly attractive traits sought after by the majority of employers. 

Evidence of Health

The science of smile aesthetics also involves the conclusions that others tend to draw. Missing, crooked, or discoloured teeth may be signals of poor oral hygiene. In turn, an observer could conclude (right or wrong) that the individual does not take his or her health seriously. This is obviously not the type of first impression that anyone wishes to leave. 

Getting Into the Habit of Smiling

Smiling comes naturally to some while others might need to practice this innate talent. Either way, a bit of effort can make all of the difference in the world if you hope to present yourself in a positive light. Here are some practical suggestions:

  • Take some time each day to smile at yourself in the mirror.
  • Make it a point to smile at those who you meet.
  • Smile when performing otherwise normal activities such as cooking, reading or exercising.

It could also be a good idea to get into the habit of smiling during professional activities such as conference calls, as this action will undoubtedly put others at ease. 

How a Dentist Can Help

However, what if you are not happy with your current smile aesthetics? As opposed to suffering in silence, it is always best to consult with a trained dentist or orthodontist. 

There are countless ways to improve the appearance of your teeth and gums. From whitening sessions and general cleanings to the use of braces or the Invisalign system, options abound. 

We also need to remember that the results of these procedures can last for a lifetime if you practice the proper oral hygiene techniques. 

Why deprive yourself of the feel-good effects of smiling? Please take a moment to bookmark this article and when in doubt, always speak with your dentist. There has never been a better time than the present to change for the better. 

Sources:

1. https://www.purina.co.uk/articles/dogs/behaviour/common-questions/can-dogs-laugh-or-smile

2. https://www.colgate.com/en-in/oral-health/teeth-whitening/how-your-smile-can-affect-your-self-confidence

3. https://dentistry.co.uk/2024/04/03/how-does-smiling-impact-professional-opportunities/

4. https://www.amherst.edu/campuslife/health-safety-wellness/counseling/wellness/the-daily-well/node/770384

 

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