The Power of a Smile
Our untapped superpower
“A smile is happiness that you can find right under your nose”
During my studies at Otago University, I completed a dental placement in Fiji. I learned a lot about dentistry, but one of the most important things I brought back home is that the power of a smile is the most powerful tool we have to connect with each other.
Let’s take a few seconds to breathe in, and smile. You feel it in your cheek, corners of the mouth, crinkles of the eyes. You feel lighter, relaxed, and for a moment, as if problems have never existed.
A smile is the most powerful tool we have to connect with each other.
Imagine walking down the road in a foreign country, what are the feelings you’d encounter if everyone were stern and serious? Would you feel welcome? safe? excited to be discovering a new part of the world?
Now imagine walking down the same road but people look you in the eyes with a friendly and genuine smile.
The difference between the two scenarios is likely immense. A smile can light up a room and build connections that might otherwise never exist. A smile makes us feel welcome, safe and connected.
No matter the culture you are finding yourself in, a smile is a universal sign of happiness. Researchers have found that a smile has the same meaning even in remote tribes that have had little to no interaction with the Western world. It is cross-cultured.
Happiness comes before a smile, or does it?
In fact, a smile can bring you measurable, real happiness. Smiling creates the flow of serotonin in your brain (the ‘happiness chemical’). Contrary to popular belief, the feeling of happiness doesn’t have to come first. People who smile with intent and often, even when they don’t feel happy, are happier people overall.
What stops us from smiling?
“Feeling uncomfortable or embarrassed to smile”
As a dentist, I often hear patients avoid smiling or only smile without showing their teeth.
Digging deep, it comes down to two main reasons:
1. Underestimated importance of a smile
Many don’t know the importance of a smile or are unaware of it. It is easy to forget to smile when there isn’t much to smile about. The daily grind can make us feel stressed, overwhelmed and not like we have much to smile about.
2. People don’t like their teeth
The most common reason I hear from our patients is that they simply don’t like something about their smiles. This might be due to the fear of judgement because of stained teeth, bad breath, gaps between teeth, missing teeth, chipped teeth or crooked teeth. Untreated dental issues can even mean it is painful to smile. But more often than not, being self-conscious about one's smile makes people hesitant.
Three practical ways to start smiling more
1. “This is my smile, and it’s a good one!” - Be comfortable in your own skin
To smile means to express yourself, smiles can be contagious, and they can be natural and comfortable. Not having ‘perfect’ teeth doesn’t mean you can’t smile comfortably.
Practising smiling regularly will help you to smile more often and naturally. Muscle memory will kick in after just a short amount of time of regular and intentional practice in front of a mirror.
Try smiling at people you are likely never to see again. A quick smile at a stranger in the park, a grin at the person coming towards you or even the dog that greets you every morning on your way to work. It’s quick and super easy!
2. “Knowledge is power, and the power of a smile is endless!” - Learn more about the importance of a smile
Familiarise yourself with what happens to your brain and your body when you smile often. Acknowledge the difference it makes in your daily life and others around you. The power of your smile is contagious, and it can impact people and have an immediate effect on others.
3. “Dentists are people too” - Come in and have a chat
I know that some people feel nervous about coming to the dentist, but give it a chance!
There might be a few things that keep you from smiling, we all have something we feel self-conscious about, and that’s ok! Sometimes all you need to hear from us is that it’s ok and completely normal to feel this way.
If you’d like to change something, it might be as small as getting rid of a minor blemish or stain or a chipped tooth. I encourage you to talk to your dentist! Make a plan by prioritising from most to least important. You might be surprised at the options and how effective small changes can be!
Addressing any concern with your dentist and looking after your dental hygiene can give you a great boost to smiling more.
“Knowing the power of a smile, I want to encourage you to smile constantly and comfortably.”