We’ve already seen how a beautiful smile can benefit us in social and professional situations, and how it makes us more attractive to others, but smiling isn’t only a matter of beauty and social impressions, but also offers major health benefits. Contracting the muscles upwards around the mouth to smile activates our brain to release neuropeptides. Neuropeptides are minute molecules that nudge our neurons to fire up and release the euphoric-inducing chemicals dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin. Overall, all of these chemicals make our bodies relax and halt stress by diminishing the release of cortisol (a stress hormone) and increases oxytocin (a chemical that induces trust and safety). What stress damage has been caused by cortisol is repaired by the release of the mood altering serotonin, which alleviates our spirits. Overall, endorphins serve as pain-relievers, making achy muscles or headaches not so unbearable if we turn our frowns upside down. All of these dancing chemicals of happiness also lower our blood pressure and heart rates.
Several studies are being conducted to analyze to what extent smiling affects all of these health benefits. A study published last November in Psychological Science tested 170 participants by instructing them to hold chopsticks in their mouth in three different ways that manipulated the mouth and facial muscles and simulated facial expressions such as our neutral, default expression, a polite fake smile, and a genuine smile that is referred to as the Duchenne smile. It is the latter smile that some researchers believe yield the most benefit, but this study found that when people were made to grin after stressful activities, their heart rate lowered quicker than those with the straight face.
With the release of all the alleviating and elating endorphins, it seems like an obvious statement that smiling can also improve our well-being and perception. From a foul mood to serious depression, our emotions enshroud our environment, and it has been found that a smile from a stranger and friend alike can have the same internal effect on you as if you were smiling. Called mirror neurons, these transmitters activate the same chemical releases as if your muscles had tickled your own neuropeptides. Likewise, when you smile at someone, you are activating their endorphins and helping them feel better about their day. But in addition to mirrored reactions, what we do with our facial expressions does seem to affect our mental well-being. In another study focused on the effects of frowning, a group of 74 diagnosed depressives were analyzed after a doctor deactivated half of the patients frowning muscles with Botox injections (the other half received placebos). Twenty-seven percent of depressed patients injected with Botox were found their mental condition in remission.
While it is annoying to hear people tell us to “Just Smile,” studies and research are revealing that it is advice beneficial to our mood, perception, and well-being. Some people avoid smiling because they are embarrassed by stained, aged, or crooked teeth, but these are all problems that can be corrected at Watts Family Dental with teeth whitening, cosmetic dentistry and/or restorative procedures. If you lack confidence in your smile, contact an associate for a consultation on how you can become more confident of your pearly whites and start feeling good and reaping the health benefits from your smile.
Watts Family Dental can help you feel more confident about your smile. We offer a wide range of services from general to cosmetic dentistry to meet every need.