Smiling is very important to you. We’re dentists, we know this. But were you aware that in addition to helping you look your best, when we protect your ability to smile, we’re also helping your overall health? That’s right, there are actual medical benefits to smiling. There are even benefits that go beyond our own individual wellbeing. It might make you very happy to learn about them.
Smiling signals the brain to release certain chemicals into the body – namely serotonin and endorphins. We really can’t say enough good things about these neurotransmitters. They are responsible for so many good feelings. Serotonin is a known mood elevator that has been linked to decreasing depression, suppressing appetite and regulating sleep. Endorphins are directly responsible for decreasing our sensations of pain as well as inhibiting the production of stress hormones. In other words, endorphins chill us out! They can also increase our sex drive and boost our immune system. By smiling, we are making ourselves happier, more relaxed, and less likely to overeat. What is not to love about these chemicals?
Anyone who has ever experienced hardship, grief or loss will tell you that a good attitude makes all the difference. Choosing to see the good in our situations as opposed to focusing on the negative helps us get through even the most difficult challenges. Even good times have the potential to make us feel sad, because we know that eventually these will end. Vacations, long anticipated special occasions, even big accomplishments – when these things end, we’re liable to feel let down, and even depressed.
You’ve heard the expression, “Fake it till you make it.” Well, even faking a smile can help. The actual movement of the facial muscles into a smile can generate the same chemical response that a real smile does, and this in turn can create genuine feelings of happiness. It would seem that the body has developed some incredible physiological capabilities to elevate our mood. By trusting in the power of a smile, we can consciously put ourselves into a much better place than we might believe is possible.
Studies have been done, including one by an Australian team of psychiatrists in 2006, that explored the difference between a perfunctory smile that doesn’t go beyond lifting the corners of the mouth and a deep,genuine expression of joy that crinkles up the whole face.
This second type of smile, known as a Duchenne Smile, is not only perceived more warmly by others, but also delivers the full impact of the type of health benefits described above. Do you want to be seen as more attractive? Do you want to feel better inside and make people around you feel better? Then don’t be afraid to grin from ear to ear, especially at your dentist.
A smile is a simple way to pay it forward. Smiles are like yawns – infectious in the best way. They are part of a universal sign language that symbolizes peace, love and good intention. Have you ever smiled at a stranger and received a smile in return? It’s a great way to dispel tension, break the ice and generally help to create a good mood all around you.
So the next time you wonder whether or not it’s worth all the time and energy it takes to care for your teeth, think about how much you do for yourself when you make it possible to have a genuine smile that you feel good about sharing. Think about how much more beautiful and attractive you look to others. And think about how you may be spreading a positive spirit during a time when hostility and hatred can be as virulent as happiness. Having and maintaining a beautiful smile that you can share with the world is just one small thing you can do to make it a better place for everyone.