A great smile makes all the difference

If your teeth keep you from smiling, there are options

By Dr. Stephanie McGann, DMD FAGD, Columnist, The Times

UTStephCollogoAs a dentist, I am frequently asked questions about how to make teeth whiter, straighter or improve a patient’s overall smile. Based on some compelling arguments it’s no wonder that a great smile is foremost on our minds. Smiling is something that we do on a daily basis but we rarely think about the power that a smile can have. We tend to think more positively of those who are smiling then of those who are not.

There are many interesting facts that revolve around a smile. Did you know that women smile and laugh more often than men and that baby will respond to a smiling face?

Studies surrounding the smile date back to the 1860’s. Early scientists used beheaded criminals to learn about the muscles and anatomy of a smile. The first use of this research was to determine “false friends” apparently they learned that a false smile was less likely to involve pupils and other accessory muscles. These studies seemed to be an early form of lie-detection. Fortunately, today’s research involving facial expression is less traumatic.

When someone smiles, it is universally known as an expression of happiness and is recognized by almost all cultures. While we may struggle to communicate in a foreign country, everyone smiles the same way.  This is not necessarily true of other species, so if a large animal is bearing its teeth in your general direction, don’t assume it’s a friendly gesture.

When a person studies laughter they are known as a gelotologist. Laughter may truly be the best medicine as studies have shown patients are healthier and heal quicker when they laugh regularly. I’m not sure we are ready for stand-up comedians wandering the halls of our hospitals, but a little levity seems to do us all good. A study even reported that frequent smiling and laughing can boost a patient’s immune system.

A smile is one of the most used human facial expressions. Smiles can use a few or all of the facial muscles. There are many different ways to smile we each use facial expression to communicate every day.  For instance, people can use a smile as an acknowledgement, and they can also use a different type of smile to show their pleasure in a particular situation. Don’t forget the all-important – “I told you so” smile. I could list my favorite grins, but I think you get the picture.

Frowning is hard. It uses more energy to sustain than a smile does. It takes effort and is often accompanied by the clenching or gnashing of teeth.  Even small children understand a frown is a sign of displeasure.

The act of smiling releases endorphins. Endorphins make everything feel better. Even if you fake a smile or smile on command there is a small release of these happy brain chemicals. A person that smiles more is considered to be more pleasant, more attractive and more social than a non-smiling person. Newborns come into this world with the ability to smile.  It is part of our human nature, even babies born without sight, have the ability to smile. One survey even evaluated the attractiveness of women smiling without make-up compared to great make up and no smile. The smiling people were deemed more attractive.

Dentists today have a number of ways to give a person their best smile.

  1. Porcelain Laminates (Veneers) These customized porcelain facings give teeth the appearance of being whiter, straighter and more symmetrical.
  2. Whitening – For teeth that just need to be a better color, there are numerous whitening options. Ask your dentist what type of whitening will work for you.
  3. Orthodontics – Either with clear aligners or conventional braces orthodontics can straighten crooked, crowded, uneven teeth and give them a better bite and a better look.
  4. Updating – If old dental work is holding back a smile it can be revisited and incorporated into a new more esthetic look.
  5. Combination – sometimes in order to achieve a perfect smile a combination of techniques is required.

If you want that promotion, you want to succeed in business or be considered pleasant and attractive, don’t overlook taking care of your smile.  As Annie sang so appropriately, “You’re never fully dressed without a smile.”

Dr. Stephanie McGann is a resident of the Unionville area and along with her partner, Dr. Marie Scott, operates The Brandywine Smile Center, a family-friendly dental practice in Concordville. She is a Fellow of the Academy of General Dentistry.

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