The Secrets of Smiling

 phoenix_cosmetic_dentistScientists don’t know a lot about how humans came to smile. Most animals that bare their teeth do so as a warning, but humans smile in friendly greeting. In the late 1800s Charles Darwin published The Expressions of Emotions in Man and Animals, but spent little time discussing smiles. The study of smiling became the work of Guillaume-Benjamin Duchenne. It was Duchenne who discovered there was a big difference between a polite (but not genuine) smile, and a spontaneous smile, the one that reaches the eyes. To this day, scientists called a genuine smile, one that includes the eyes, a Duchenne smile.

“Smiling is one of the most important way to express joy and self-confidence,” says Dr. Carol Ford from her Phoenix cosmetic dentistry office. “Smiles are complex and tell the world a lot about who you are and how you feel about yourself.”

In her book, Lip Service: Smiles in Life, Death, Trust, Lies, Work, Memory, Sex and Politics, researcher Marianne LaFrance in an article on Wired.com says that we don’t often smile when we are alone: “We might think that if we’re reading a book by ourselves and we come across a funny passage we’d break into a smile, but it’s actually pretty rare. But if that same passage is being read to us, or other people are in the room, we’re more likely to smile.” Sure enough, smiling is social—we like to share it with other people. We like to see others smile back at us.

LaFrance also points out that women smile more often than men. Women are also taught to suppress their own emotions and smile to cover awkward or difficult situations. For example, a woman who unwraps a present will act pleased, even if she is not happy with the gift. LaFrance says, “It makes evolutionary sense to show expressions that we don’t always feel, and not to show expressions that we do feel.”

Smiling is so important to our culture, and people who have a medical condition that steals their smile are uncomfortable for that reason alone. We believe people who don’t smile as lacking compassion and emotion.

“Smiling is a way we connect with other people,” says Dr. Ford. “We signal an openness, and approachability, a way to communicate before we even start speaking,” she adds.

With smiles being such an important part of communication, it’s more important than ever to keep the smile bright and healthy through daily care and regular dental visits.

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