The Power of a Simple Smile

Barbara Tritz
· May 3, 2024 ·

7 minutes

Say “Cheese”! May is National Smile Month.  Let’s celebrate smiles and learn more about them.  The simple act of smiling is so powerful. It has the potential to change your entire outlook on life. Join me and learn more about something we take for granted- “The Smile”.

A Smile History Lesson

Did you know that in the “olden days” people did not smile in portraits or old photos because at that time, smiles were equated with madness, insanity, drunkenness, lewdness or childishness?  Nobody wanted to be forever remembered in print as a fool.  Small mouths were considered the standard of beauty.  Subjects were asked to say “prunes”  to get the desired portrait expression.  Saying the word “prune” sure does make you pucker!  Toothy grins were frowned upon until the beginning of the 20th century.  Tooth decay was rampant.  Until I did my research for this article, I really hadn’t thought about the fact many of these folks had lots of tooth decay and missing teeth.

That all changed with the advent of the Kodak Brownie camera, the motion picture industry, and of course, better dentistry! 

Say Cheese!

The Eastman Kodak Camera Company put cameras in the hands of everyday Americans. They wanted to make picture-taking fun and thus, made  “the smile” the standard for a good snapshot.  Dentistry improved during that same period. Porcelain crowns made teeth look good again.  Movie stars started smiling in their movies and the rest, as they say, is history. Everyone wanted that “Hollywood” smile and cosmetic dentistry obliged.

Fun Smiling Facts

  • We are unique in the animal kingdom, only humans smile! Animals do grin – from fear.
  • Thirty percent of Americans show their canine teeth when they smile.
  • Only 67% turn up the corners of their mouth when they smile.
  • Liars smile bigger, they want you to believe them.
  • Smiles tell people you are non-threatening.
  • Smiling is the most important non-verbal communication skill we possess.
  • Smiling has a profound effect on the reward part of the brain.
  • Your facial expression determines your mental state.  If you smile, it releases endorphins and reduces cortisol.  (Cortisol in excess can increase blood pressure.)  These endorphins have an effect similar to morphine to help with pain.  Time to put on that happy face.
  • Your brain can’t tell the difference between your real smile and a fake smile – it releases those feel-good endorphins anyway, so just smile.  Fake it til you make it kinda thing!
  • Your brain can recognize a smile on someone else from 90 meters away.
  • Smiles are contagious.  People feel better just looking at someone with a smile.
  • Smiling proves competence, confidence, and ability to cope with stressful situations.
  • Smile at job interviews!
  • Your facial expressions determine your mental state.
  • Smiling while learning a new skill takes the stress away.  It’ll make you more relaxed and comfortable.
  • Smiling raises your self-esteem.  It makes you feel happier.
  • Women see smiles as a sign of support.
  • Men see women’s smiles as a “come on” sign, a sign of flattery, and as a sexual invitation.
  • Men who smile too much lose masculinity points.  Women want men who appear strong and masculine rather than a guy who’ll appease them.  Men who don’t smile as much are seen as stronger; they don’t appease anyone. (It will be interesting to see if this observation changes in our time!)
  • Studies show that women laugh at men they find attractive, and men are attracted to women who laugh at them.
  • We stand farther away from people who are frowning.

Genuine Smiles Versus Fake Smiles

Real smiles are called Duchenne smiles and involve both the mouth and the eyes.  The muscles around the lips are called the Orbicularis Oris and do that familiar pull around the mouth.  Natural smiles involve different nerves from those activated when we force a smile, so they look different.  Real smiles also involve that crinkle around the eye- from the Zygomatic major muscles along with the Orbicularis Oculi.  No crinkles, no real smile.  So all my many eye wrinkles are a good thing!  Social smiles only involve the corners of the mouth, with no eye movement.  That said, some 71% of people can voluntarily contract their eye muscles and make their smile look “real.”  So,  I guess the eye crinkle is not foolproof.

Miles Of Smiles

Real smiles take longer to appear but last longer.

Real smiles occur in small bursts, rather than stay plastered on your face.

We smile back at folks who smile at us.  We mimic what we see.  If it’s a fake smile, our brain can tell because our brain compares our real smile to what that person’s smile looks and feels like.

Baby Smiles are Best Smiles

Baby Faces are Even Better

Babies have been seen to smile in the womb and even smile in their sleep, it’s not just when they have gas!

Baby’s first social smile happens anywhere from four to six weeks of age.  She smiles because she recognizes someone special, that’s you!  She’ll use her whole entire face.  Baby smiles are extra special, so enjoy them!  The more you snuggle and interact with baby, the larger and faster her brain will develop and the more social she’ll be!  Grow a healthy baby and smile away!

Sweet Baby Smiles

Babies cry to get our attention but their smile keeps us there.  Yes, true, especially at three o’clock in the morning.

Children smile 400 times per day, while adults smile 20.  Time to ramp it up, folks.  You’ll really feel better if you smile more.  Kids are on to something important.

Best Smiles

Practice makes perfect!  Last week I had a photo shoot for a head shot for our office web page.  Yikes!  I found I over-smiled and my eyes got too “squinty” and my smile too toothy.  Back to the mirror to practice and get it right.

There are facial exercises that help your “smile”.  They improve blood flow, strengthen muscles, and can make you look younger and healthier!  They can be as effective as surgery and a face-lift.  It’s called orofacial myofunctional therapy.

Instead of saying “cheese” (or prunes)  say “yes” or “money”.

There are many different types of smiles – from the tight-lipped, the sly, the sideways coy, the grin, the open-mouth laugh, then there’s the nervous smile, the fear smile, the contempt smile, and the listener response smile.  So many different types of smiles.  My favorite is the “happy to see you” smile!

The Making of a Healthy Smile

Green, fuzzy teeth and red inflamed gums do not photograph well.  A clean, healthy smile is the best, most attractive smile there is!   No blog post would be complete if I didn’t give you some new product recommendations on how to help your teeth look their best! Visit my Favorite Products page for links to these and many other great tools!

Kyoui Electric tooth brush  – Electric toothbrushes just clean more plaque off and they do it faster.

Brush twice a day, and get all the plaque off.  Electric brushes are best.  My very favorite electric brush is called the Kyoui  (pronounced; “Q” ee).  It’s super soft and extremely gentle.  That’s a switch from many of the most popular power brushes.  Plus, it has a special extra tip called an “end tuft” and that’ll get into all your oral “nooks and crannies”.  Its unique angle makes cleaning the back teeth much easier.  Like I’ve said before, though, get the best you can afford. 

Dry brushing with a manual brush and effective flossing can do a great job too if you brush long enough that your teeth feel and taste clean..

Dentalcidin, Super Mouth and Dr. Jen’s toothpastes all get my Queenly seal of toothpaste approval. If toothpaste has a warning label that strongly suggests you “not swallow” it then really, should it even go in your mouth?

Toothpaste’s job is to kill bad bacteria and other pathogens, remineralize teeth and create a neutral pH inthe mouth.

Cleaning in between teeth because, yes, there is plaque there too.

Piksters are little brushes that fit in between the teeth and clean the gums better.  They come in 10 different sizes so explore which sizes work best for you.  Dip them into your remineralizing toothpaste for extra healing power and work that in between your teeth and clean up your gums.  (Floss is always good too.)

Tongues harbor plaque and stinky bacteria too so remember to clean your tongue with a tongue scraper.

Do clean and scraper your tongue twice daily.  White and coated tongues just make me cringe when I see it on TV and, in photographs.   I love the Tongue Sweeper.  Yes, it does make me gag every time I use it. I go back as far as I can because I don’t want a white-coated tongue or bad breath.  My breath stays fresher, and my teeth stay healthier and my smile stays witer.

Then – Practice Smiling! and maybe a little myofunctional therapy to boost those facial muscles. Practice make PERFECT!

Smiles are Powerful

 Smile!  It will change your life.

Healthy teeth make for beautiful smiles and happy, healthy hearts. Be sure your wonderful, favorite dental hygienist is on your calendar to give your smile that extra polish and healing boost. Your smile is your most important calling card. Treat it with love and respect.

The Simple Smile is So Powerful!

Happy May Smiles Month

Warmly,

Barbara The Happy Smiley Queen of Dental Hygiene

Hello, I'm Barbara Tritz

Unveiling the Stories Behind Dental Hygiene

Loving science, especially biology, from an early age, Barbara is a registered dental hygienist, certified biological hygienist, and orofacial myofunctional therapist. In 2019, she received the Hu-Friedy/ADHA Master Clinician Award from the American Dental Hygienist Association.

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