The amazing role your smile plays in your everyday life.

We give and receive smiles every day, but the daily roles that smiling plays in our lives just makes it that much more important. Smiling helps us to express ourselves and plays a vital role in our social lives, but it’s almost exclusive to humans—other than us, only apes and a few species of monkeys smile when they’re happy. This fact alone makes each smile that much more amazing, but there are plenty of other factors that make smiles unique, special, and even vital to our relationships and daily lives. Here are 10 surprising facts about smiles that will help you understand just how special your smile is.

1. It can boost your overall mood.

When you smile, it triggers a very real response in your body. Your brain releases dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin, which are known as your body’s “feel-good chemicals.” These neurotransmitters help you feel happier and more relaxed. When you’re already happy, this forms a sort of positive feedback loop, where expressing your happiness also increases it. Even when you’re not happy, even a fake smile can help improve your mood! Incredible, right? This is because it’s the movement of the muscles themselves that triggers the response in your brain. But how does smiling compare to other well-known mood-boosters? Well, it blows chocolate out of the water! A UK study found that just a single smile provides the same level of brain stimulation as up to 2000 chocolate bars. Now that’s what we call a mood boost!

2. Smiling is universal across cultures.

When we communicate with each other, the words we use, our tone, and our body language all play a role in how we’re understood. Body language plays an even bigger role than you might think, as we pick up on a lot of it subconsciously. While the exact amount is debated, a prominent study by Dr. Albert Mehrabian asserts that 55% of communication relies on body language. This is complicated—and made even more interesting—by the fact that nonverbal cues aren’t always universal across cultures. For example, while it may seem like shaking your head to indicate “no” and nodding to indicate “yes” is universal, it’s not! In countries like Bulgaria and Greece, nodding indicates “no” instead of “yes.” Even eye contact or pointing can have vastly different meanings depending on where in the world you are.

Smiling, however, is truly universal. People belonging to different cultures across the world use smiles to express the same happiness and joy. It’s ingrained, a built-in way for people from vastly different cultures to understand each other on some level. In fact, even blind babies, who could not possibly have learned to copy expressions like smiles or frowns from others, show the same facial expressions as sighted babies in response to happiness or sadness.

3. Smiles are contagious.

Have you ever noticed someone smiling and found yourself grinning right back? Or noticed how someone’s smile just lights up a room? There’s a reason for that! Smiling is contagious—when someone smiles at you, you’re hard-wired to smile back. We even do this with complete strangers. The mood-boosting effects of smiling can turn simple interactions like this into a positive experience, helping you to build relationships, adding a bit more joy to your day, or even helping you to make a difference in someone else’s day!

4. There are different types of smiles.

Smiles can be just as complex as the individuals giving them. In fact, there’s still disagreement among scientists regarding how many smiles there are. Leonard Rubin categorized three basic types of smiles in 1974, focusing on describing the appearance of the smiles themselves, including which muscles are involved in each and how much of the person’s teeth show. Since then, however, more types of smiles have been described, including documenting the emotion behind a smile—which isn’t always happiness. People smile due to genuine happiness, but we’ll also smile to express sarcasm, discomfort, contempt, to feign happiness, and many other reasons. This is where a lot of the disagreement comes in. Today, scientists recognize at least nine different types of smiles, though some list as many as 50. A truly talented cosmetic dentist understands smile psychology and takes it into account when they design your smile makeover.

5. People can tell the difference between a genuine and fake smile.

Have you ever noticed that you can tell when someone is faking a smile? The key comes down to the little wrinkles that form around their eyes when they release a genuine smile. These little wrinkles are the result of an involuntary muscle contraction, so you just can’t fake that part of a smile. Fascinatingly, genuine smiles and fake smiles are even controlled by completely different parts of your brain! Fake smiles are controlled by the motor cortex, while genuine smiles are controlled by the limbic system, which is the portion of your brain that deals with emotions.

6. Contrary to what people used to say, babies are born with the ability to smile.

It’s a common misconception that babies aren’t born with the ability to smile, but that’s actually not true. Not only are babies able to smile as soon as they’re born—and with the innate behavior of smiling in response to happiness—but they actually even smile in utero! Amazingly, detailed scans of unborn babies have shown them smiling at around 26 weeks’ development.

7. Smiling can help you in your personal and professional life.

Your smile doesn’t just have the ability to boost your mood or help you feel more confident. It actively impacts the way other people view you. When you smile, you come across as friendlier, more trustworthy, and even more confident. This shift in the way people view you can help you seem more approachable, helping you make friends more readily, but it can also help you at work. When you present an idea at a meeting or speak to your boss, you’ll simply seem more competent and sure of yourself if you offer a confident smile than you would if you seem nervous or even simply neutral.

8. Every smile is unique.

There’s no smile out there like yours—and we mean that literally! Smiles are just as unique as your fingerprints, so they can also be used to identify you. This makes your smile even more special. A great cosmetic dentist understands that smiles are meant to be one-of-a-kind and will work with you to design restorations, whether you’re getting a single dental implant or a complete smile makeover, that are just as individual and beautiful as you are. This ensures that your completed smile will have a natural, unique beauty that you’ll feel confident in!

9. Dogs have developed the ability to read human facial expressions, including smiles.

Smiling is so important to the social lives of humans that dogs, our constant companions for thousands of years now, have gained the ability to recognize human facial expressions and connect them to our emotions. One significant study found that dogs could distinguish between a happy and an angry expression on complete strangers, even when only presented with an image of half of the person’s face. Scientists still aren’t sure if this ability developed as an innate part of domestication, if it’s a learned experience from close contact with humans, or a mix of the two. Either way, though, it’s an amazing example of just how vital smiling is to our daily lives and our ability to communicate with others—even across species!

10. People who smile more often tend to live longer.

Amazingly, study after study has found that people who smile more and tend to be happier or more optimistic live longer lives—an average of seven or eight years longer than other people. These additional years tend to be marked by better health, too! After all, when you smile, the endorphins released in your brain also lower your stress levels, heart rate, and blood pressure. This actively helps prevent future health problems by putting you at a lower risk for health conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. It’s yet another amazing example of how much your mental health and happiness can actively impact your physical health.

You see smiles every day, but they’re still extraordinary. There’s no other smile out there like yours, and it plays an essential role in helping you to interact with and understand the people around you. It helps you feel happier and can even lengthen your lifespan! If you’re hoping to give a little love back to your smile by ensuring it’s healthy or restoring its health and appearance, feel free to schedule an appointment with Dr. Monroe at our Greenville, SC, dentist office at any time. He’ll give your smile the unique, individualized care that it deserves.