The Psychology Behind A Great Smile

The Psychology Behind A Great Smile

Visiting the dentist’s office regularly and keeping your teeth in tip top shape is important for your health — but did you know that the condition of your smile can have psychological effects as well?


First of all, there is the psychology of the way others perceive your smile. Here are just a few stats to sink your teeth into:

  • A study conducted by Kelton Global discovered that 29 percent of those surveyed say a person’s smile is the first thing they notice. And 24 percent say it is the facial aspect they remember most after meeting someone. What’s even crazier is this finding — 38 percent of those polled say they would opt out of second date with someone because of misaligned teeth, while only 23 percent of those polled would opt out of second date because the individual lives with their parents as an adult. Even more interesting is that 57 percent of Americans would rather have a nice smile than clear skin.
  • Research by Wrigley has found that a woman’s attractiveness is more related to her smile than her makeup. Approximately 70 percent of people think a woman is more attractive when she smiles.
  • The benefits of having a beautiful smile go well beyond being perceived as attractive, it can enhance your career. The Chicago Tribune reports that 74 percent of those surveyed believe a smile with discolored or broken teeth can inhibit your career success.
  • A Penn State study concluded that service industry employees who smiles made positive impressions on their customers as opposed to those who did not smile.
  • According to University of Pittsburgh researchers, smiling can make your seem more trustworthy. In the study, researchers asked 45 models to smile at different increments and then participants ranked the level of trustworthiness they perceived. The bigger the smile, they more trustworthy the models were rated.


While we know that having a great smile is important, what is it exactly that defines a “beautiful smile?” The answer lies in research. While you might be able to assess whether or not someone has a great smile in just a split second, scientific data suggests the psychology of what makes us perceive a smile as favorable goes much deeper. Here are few specific key factors that play into our smile rating system.

  • TOOTH COLOR: White teeth are considered a sign of health. In fact, many of the things that we deem as favorable and/or attractive can be traced back to a subconscious and even primitive desire to find a “healthy” mate with fertility and youth on their side. A study done by Leeds and Central Lancashire took pictures of people’s teeth and then altered the shades from yellow to bright white. The images of whiter teeth were considered to be more healthy and attractive than those with yellow teeth. Those with whiter teeth were viewed as having more robust and healthy bodies. Whether or not that is actually true, the perception still stands. Thanks goodness for whitening!
  • GUM EXPOSURE: Most people have some level of gum exposure, also known as gingival display, if you want to be technical. One to two centimeters of exposed gum tissues is the average. Typically, 4+ centimeters of gum tissue exposure is often be deemed unfavorable by dentists and the general population. These days, cutting edge dental procedures can actually reduce your gingival display and change the shape of your teeth if you so desire.
  • TOOTH LENGTH: Women tend to have shorter and smaller lateral incisors while men tend to have more uniform incisor length. While gorgeous smiles that buck these trends are definitely possible, there are also options for lengthening your crowns.
  • STRAIGHT TEETH: More people are receiving orthodontic treatment than ever before. These patients aren’t just teenagers, almost a quarter of orthodontic patients in the US in Canada are adults. Of all the specific factors that make up a socially perceived beautiful smile, the straightness of your teeth is the one thing that actually has real implications on your dental health. Crooked teeth can cause dental problems are purely medical in nature. For example, crooked teeth can be harder to clean, allowing gum disease and cavities to form more easily. They can also be more prone to bad breath and chewing or speaking difficulties.


If you have a smile that you are proud of, you are more likely to let it shine! And the actual physical act of smiling can reap huge benefits for your psyche.

Here are a few other facts to smile about:

  • The idea among psychologists that smiling can have an affect on your mood dates as far back as Charles Darwin. It is believed that he originated the idea and term of “facial feedback hypothesis.” It’s the theory that choosing to smile can elevate our inner mood to be consistent with outward expression.
  • According to Psychology Today, smiling activates neuropeptides that fight stresses. Dopamine, endorphins and serotonin are all released when you smile and they work to relax your body while lowering your heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Prevention explains that the dopamine released when you smile is linked to neurotransmitters that control your motivation level.
  • According to the Huffington Post, it takes only 20 milliseconds for your brain to register and respond to an emotional expression like a smile.
  • The Scientific American recently reported on an enlightening Journal of Pain study. The study asked participants to make unhappy, neutral and relaxed facial expressions during a treatment reported different levels of pain. Those who frowned actually reported being in more physical pain than the other two groups.

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