YOU PROBABLY HEARD the line “it takes fewer muscles to smile than to frown” when you were growing up, but the pedantic dentist might point out that it technically isn’t true. At least ten muscles are involved in smiling, while as few as six are required for frowning. But that’s no reason to frown more; if you think about it, it just means that smiling burns more calories! Even better, there are many other benefits that come from a smiling face.
We Smile When We’re Happy…and Vice Versa?
We obviously smile when we feel happy, but evidence indicates that smiling and happiness are so closely linked that the simple act of smiling can cause happy feelings. Even if it’s a fake smile, it can still release endorphins (also known as the feel-good hormone) and make us feel better. It might be worth trying a smile the next time you’re having a rough day to see if it helps.
Smiling Can Reduce Pain and Stress
Thanks to that endorphin boost from smiling, we can get a lot of other benefits beyond improving our mood. In the moment, endorphins can help reduce pain and relieve stress. They function a lot like painkillers, except that they are free of side-effects!
In 2012, an experiment showed some interesting results with the simple act of smiling. Subjects were given a stressful task, and some were required to hold a pencil between their lips as they did the task (simulating a pouty expression) while others were required to hold it between their teeth (simulating smiling). The second group’s heart rates returned to normal more quickly, suggesting that smiling helps us manage stress.
The Effects Multiply Over Time
It’s lovely to get some short-term effects from endorphins, but those effects are cumulative over time. If we make a habit of smiling more, we can end up with long-term health benefits like being more resilient against illnesses and less likely to get cancer. The reason it reduces the risk of cancer is that when we are better at managing our stress, our cells undergo fewer stress-induced mutations throughout our lives.
Add to Your Lifespan Through Smiles
People will often perceive a smiling face as younger and more attractive, but that can go deeper than appearances. A lifetime of smiling may actually come with enough health benefits to be longer! But it can be difficult to smile when we aren’t confident in the way our teeth look. Having a smile we’re proud to show off requires us to be diligent with our dental hygiene routine, and it may mean orthodontic treatment or other dental work is necessary.
Come to the Dentist With Your Beautiful Smile!
You don’t have to fight alone for your smile’s health — the dentist is your biggest ally. Make sure to schedule regular cleanings and exams so that you can get that deep clean from the hygienist and so that the dentist has a chance to catch any problems when they are minor and easy to treat. Also bring your questions about your dental health!