The Mystery Behind Your Smile
Every year, over 8 million people from countries around the world visit the Louvre just to see the Mona Lisa. What draws so many people to this tiny painting? In many ways, it comes down to one small detail: her smile. This is a perfect example of the power that smiles hold. We may give and receive smiles every day, but they’re far from ordinary. They can be reassuring, silly, mysterious, or downright magnetic. Smiling plays an essential role in our everyday interactions with other people, but we’re still uncovering just how fascinating and unique they are. To help you appreciate your uniquely beautiful smile more, here are 10 surprising facts you may not know about smiles!
1. Babies are born with the ability to smile.
You might have heard that newborn babies can’t smile, but the truth is much cooler—not to mention much more adorable! Babies actually begin smiling in the womb for the first time at about 26 weeks’ gestation. The misconception that babies aren’t born with the ability to smile likely springs from the fact that they don’t typically smile again until they reach around six weeks old. Even though they’re perfectly capable of the expression, scientists believe that babies probably don’t smile for this period of time because they’re adjusting to their new surroundings. After all, the world is quite different from what they’re used to! Whatever the reason is, however, it’s amazing to realize just how ingrained smiling is in our behavior.
2. Smiling is a universal expression of happiness.
People are social creatures, and a surprising amount of our ability to communicate comes down to body language and expression. Although these factors sound like they would be universal—and some aspects of it are—a surprising amount of it isn’t. Depending on where you are in the world, elements of visual communication like nodding, shaking your head, or maintaining eye contact carry different meanings. Some expressions, however, remain universal—including smiling. No matter where you are in the world, people smile to express joy. It’s a natural way to communicate across cultural and language barriers, helping us to better understand each other no matter where we are in the world.
3. Everyone’s smile is unique.
No one else has a smile like yours, and we’re not saying that just to be nice. It’s true! Your teeth and bite are just as unique to you as your fingerprints. They’re so unique that, like fingerprints, your bite can be used to identify you! Your smile is part of what makes you so uniquely you. A truly skilled cosmetic dentist knows this and will put careful artistry into each and every dental restoration you receive. Whether you need veneers, a dental crown, a dental implant, or a full smile makeover, Dr. Sexton will put skill and artistry into each detail to ensure that your smile maintains its uniqueness, adding to the natural beauty of your restorations.
4. Scientists can’t quite agree on how many types of smiles there are.
Smiles are best known for helping to express emotions like joy and amusement, but they’re used to express a surprisingly wide range of emotions. You can use a smile to feign happiness or to express more negative emotions like discomfort, disgust, and even anger. As a result, there have been a surprising number of studies looking into the different types of smiles and trying to categorize them. There are three basic smiles, but scientists haven’t quite been able to agree on how many different types of smiles there are. There are at least nine different types, but one study categorized over 50.
When you think about how many emotions, including very complex emotions, that a smile helps you express, it’s no wonder that there’s disagreement about how to categorize them! This is why a talented smile makeover dentist needs to understand more than just oral health—they need to understand smile psychology as well. Being aware of all the different expressions and emotions that your smile will help you convey helps them to design an effective, natural smile.
5. We’re very good at detecting fake smiles.
Often, we can spot a fake smile from a mile away—even if the person is doing their best to seem genuine. Even if you don’t know what sets a smile apart as fake, you’re often still able to detect the difference. The general public usually gets the difference right about 60% of the time, though researchers suggest that people with a higher level of empathy tend to do better. So, what’s the secret? When you give someone a genuine smile, the muscles around your eyes automatically contract. This is what causes happy little eye crinkles in truly joyful smiles. In a fake smile, however, this muscle doesn’t contract, so you don’t get eye crinkles. Fascinatingly, this happens because genuine smiles and fake smiles are controlled by completely different parts of your brain! Even when we don’t know what’s tipping us off that a smile isn’t genuine, the lack of wrinkles around someone’s eyes is often the key, as it’s a simple and quite intuitive way to distinguish the fake from the genuine.
6. Smiling can boost your overall mood and confidence.
When you smile, your brain releases dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins, known collectively as your brain’s “feel-good chemicals.” This actively helps you feel happier and more relaxed, so much so that it has a physical effect on your body, lowering your heart rate and blood pressure. Feeling more relaxed can even help your confidence levels, too!
7. Genuine smiles are contagious.
This sounds a little weird, right? Well, it’s true! When you think about it, this makes sense—people are incredibly social by nature, and building a positive relationship through smiling and mutual happiness is an important element of that. But how does it work? The part of your brain that controls genuine smiles also controls automatic responses, and when someone else smiles, that part of your brain prompts you to return it. Since your brain releases feel-good chemicals when you smile—and because the reward center of your brain gets stimulated when someone smiles back at you—smiling at another person creates a feedback loop of positivity! It’s why even a simple smile from a stranger can be so great for boosting your mood.
8. Smiling impacts others’ impressions of you.
There are many ways that smiling impacts the way others perceive you. Over the years, studies have repeatedly shown that smiling makes others perceive you as more attractive. Other studies have reported that a nice smile makes you seem more confident, friendlier, and even more competent at work. After all, by simply appearing confident, you also seem more confident in the ideas or thoughts you share at work.
9. Expressing happiness through smiling is rare.
When most species bare their teeth at one another, it’s done as an expression of fear or aggression. Smiling to express happiness is almost exclusively human—other than us, only certain kinds of apes and monkeys smile to express even positive emotions. It puts into perspective just how unique and special the human smile is.
10. People who smile more tend to live longer.
Believe it or not, multiple studies have shown that people who smile more often tend to live longer. They don’t outlive others by a small margin, either. On average, people who smile more live more than 7 years longer than their counterparts and tend to experience better health throughout that time as well. While scientists aren’t completely sure why this is the case, one of the potential reasons is simply the positive effect that smiling has on your body. When you’re smiling a lot, you’re benefiting more from the lower heart rate and blood pressure that it can cause. Plus, people who smile often are less likely to be stressed often. Avoiding or limiting stress is great for your health in the short and long term. All of these factors together probably play at least a small part in helping people who smile more often to stay healthier and happier over a longer lifetime.
Since smiling plays such an essential part in our daily lives, it’s easy to overlook just how intriguing and influential it really is. At the end of the day, the woman in the Mona Lisa might have a secret, but we all have a little mystery in our smiles. If you’re ready to take the next step to maintain the health of your unique smile, feel free to schedule an appointment with Dr. Sexton at any time.