Smile – it really is good for you (and everyone else)

By Dr Mike Heffernan and Dr Toby Edwards-Lunn Did you know the most popular emoji used on social media is the smiling face that’s weeping tears of joy 😂? There’s a fact to pull out of your pocket the next time the conversation turns to Facebook bringing out the worst in everyone. The popularity of the emoji underlines an interesting point: that in today’s complex, multicultural world, where people from so many different countries and backgrounds are brought together, especially online, the power of a confident smile has never had greater currency. It’s a point that science reiterates. When you smile at someone, it activates the dopamine-release system in their brain. They feel good, so they’re likely to mimic your expression automatically. It’s a self-fulfilling system. Research has demonstrated that smiling can lift your mood, lower stress, boost your immune system and potentially even prolong your life. Researchers at the University of Kansas found that smiling helps to lower your heart rate in tense situations and reduces your body’s reaction to stress. Smiley happy people can also be more successful: a bright, appealing smile can improve your career prospects and even help you to find the right partner. As dentists, we certainly never underestimate the power of a smile, and one of the joys of our job is seeing the metamorphosis that can take place when a patient’s confidence in their own smile is restored. It was no surprise to us that a Bupa survey of 2,000 people found that more than 25pc didn’t like to smile because of the appearance of their teeth and that more than 30pc were embarrassed to smile at others or for a photo. What a sad thought. Thankfully, advances in dentistry mean that no one need feel embarrassed by their smile any more. Modern tooth-scanning techniques and dentists’ ability to create well-fitting and appealing replacement teeth mean that even the most crooked smile can now be made beautiful. So if going to see your dentist has never previously put a smile on your face, now is the time to think again. Because in our experience, a visit to your 😷􏰁 to discuss ways of improving your smile is an important first step on the way to feeling 􏰂 😃 or even 😂􏰀. A version of this article was published in The Daily Telegraph.