What Your Smile Says About Your Life

You’ve probably heard it plenty of times from your dentist before: Brushing and flossing protects your teeth from rotting, your gums from receding and can even help ward off heart disease. Yet if you still need another reason to stay on top of your oral care every day, here’s a new one: A healthier, wider smile can increase your life span.

The New Research on Smiling

Berkeley recently completed a study of 30-year-old yearbook photos. By measuring how broadly students were smiling, researchers could accurately predict how long their marriages would last and how they would score in tests measuring their well-being. In a 2010 Wayne State University study of 1960s baseball cards, the span of a player’s smile actually predicted the span of his life. Those with the widest grins lived almost five years longer than those with slight smiles, and seven years longer than those who didn’t smile at all!

The Benefits of Smiling

So does levity lead to longevity? And what is it about smiling that has this effect? The truth is that being a happy person certainly helps. There’s ample evidence that just lifting the corners of your mouth sets off amazing physical and emotional reactions. Here are some facts about smiling:

  • Smiling immediately improves your mood, according to many studies, including recent research published in the journal Emotion.           
  • Smiling makes others smile even if they don’t want to. Most people instinctively know that smiling is contagious. Recently, a Swedish study at Uppsala University proved it scientifically as well. When looking at happy faces, study subjects had trouble frowning in response even when requested to do so. 
  • Smiling pumps out endorphins, which boosts your immune system, relieves stress and lowers your blood pressure.
  • Smiling releases the neurotransmitter serotonin, which makes your brain fire up to its fullest potential.
  • Smiling makes you look more attractive and confident, helping you feel more successful and helps you stay positive.  And that makes you … smile more.

The effects of smiling are immediate. However, I’ve noticed that some of my patients still don’t smile widely -- or at all. They want to hide their teeth because they’re not confident of the way their smile looks to the world. The solution: Brush and floss twice a day, visit your dentist twice a year -- and when you do, ask if there’s anything more you can do to create a smile you want to show off. The key to a happy, long life may just lie in that little tube of toothpaste and container of floss.

Got a question for Dr. Burhenne? Ask below or tweet it @Completely You

by Dr. Mark Burhenne