The Science Behind Smiles

One of the things that makes humans such interesting animals is our ability to feel and express emotion, often through smiling. We smile when we’re happy, when something is funny, sometimes even when we’re uncomfortable. Raising our cheeks and showing off our teeth is known as smiling and no matter what the reason, people start smiling when they are born and hopefully do not stop their entire lives. It seems normal, but have you ever wondered why we do this?

What is a smile?

Technically, a smile is a pleased, kind, or amused facial expression, typically with the corners of the mouth turned up and the front teeth exposed. A scientist named Andrew Newberg concluded that the smile is “the symbol that was rated with the highest positive emotional content.” That means that smiling is extremely powerful!

What happens when we smile?

When something makes us happy or amuses us, we smile. But it’s not so simple! When a smile forms, neuronal signals travel from the cortex of your brain to the brainstem, and that is when the muscles in our face contract and pull the smiles onto our faces. And smiles really just keep getting better because once we smile once, there is a positive feedback loop that plays in our brain and reinforces the joyous feeling.

Why do we smile?

According to science, smiles actually originated from “fang-flashing.” Humans are animals after all, and part of being an animal is defending yourself. Smiling, or fang-flashing, was originally used as a scare tactic, which eventually became an admission of fear, and then eventually evolved into showing that someone was your equal.

“Scientists find that sometimes in higher primates (such as chimpanzees) the expression also gets flashed between equals,” said Janice Porteous, a professor of philosophy at Vancouver Island University in Canada. “A couple of equals will have been parted for a long time and then meet and flash it to each other and then embrace. So it moves from showing non-hostility to showing affection or affliction. It becomes friendly.”

Now of course, humans have evolved way past smiling just to bare our teeth or just to show someone that they’re our friend. Our smiles have the ability to show an extremely wide range of emotions and our brains have evolved to detect those different emotions and make better sense of them.

Whether it be a sly smirk, a big laugh, or even just a relaxed smile because you are enjoying the day, smiling is a great way for humans to express themselves. It is part of what makes us social creatures with feelings and the ability to share those feelings with other people.

What makes a great smile?

The biggest factor in having a great smile is hygiene. Teeth do not have to be perfect for a lovely smile, but they do have to be clean. Keeping up with oral hygiene is the most important thing anyone can do to protect their teeth, smile, and ability to share emotion through smiling. Making an effort to brush and floss daily is the best way to keep teeth clean, sparkly, and smiling. Keeping teeth clean does more than just give you a good looking smile, it also communicates that you take care of yourself and your overall well-being.

Braces are another way to improve the look and feel of a smile. Orthodontic treatment has not been around as long as smiling has, but it has had a great positive impact on smiles all over the world. Straightening teeth out has made smiling look and feel better for so many people, and it is still a growing industry. If you want to perfect your smile and also make it more comfortable for your lips, cheeks, and jaw, investing in braces may be the best answer for you.

Dr. Reddick’s office offers traditional braces, clear ceramic braces, Invisalign, and surgical orthodontics so that all patients can find the treatment they need for their best smile. If you are interested in any of these services, call the office today to schedule an appointment. The staff would be happy to discuss treatment options further and get you closer to the smile you deserve. That’s something to smile about!