May is National Mental Health Awareness Month and because our team at Advantage Dental Group is committed to our patients’ overall wellbeing – we wanted to put out some great information on something that our whole office loves – smiles! Mental health is a critical issue in the world today. Studies show that nearly 40% of American adults suffer from mental illness, and more than half are suffering from depression as well. In a world where we have everything at our fingertips, sometimes it is the simplest of things that can pull us out of the darkness.
The Science Behind the Smile
You may have never thought about your smile before. A quick grin here, a sudden laugh there. A smile is a simple muscle maneuver, right? Well, not really. In fact, a smile is really quite remarkable. When you first experience a situation that causes you joy, your brain sends a signal to your brainstem that alerts your facial muscles to react. This response is incredibly fast, so fast in fact that we would have no time to even notice this happening behind the scenes. As our muscles react to the brain signal, another signal is sent back up to our brain from our ‘smile’ that tells the brain “I am happy, keep sending smile signals!” Thus, you become a victim of a smile feedback loop, and it’s really pretty cool!
It isn’t just the smile itself that is cool, though. A smile also tells your brain that you are happy, which then releases more endorphins and cortisol than a session at the gym or a piece of chocolate! In fact, one study conducted reported that one smile can bring on the same amount of chemical response in our brain as being given nearly $20,000! That is pretty powerful. In addition, the chemicals released when you smile have a huge effect on other parts of your body. You can experience:
- Reduced blood pressure
- Increased endurance
- Reduced pain
- Reduced stress
- Strengthened immune system
Impact Others with Your Smile
As we grow up, we lose our smile frequency. In childhood, we smile an average of 400 times per day, but by the time we are adults, that number drops to an average of just 40-50 times per day. There is definitely a correlation between how often we smile and how often we start that happiness feedback loop and the rate of mental illness.
The unfortunate part is that the less we smile – the less other people smile! That’s right, smiling is very contagious. In a study conducted, smiling had over a 90% reciprocity rate. This means that when you smile at someone, whether a friend, acquaintance, or stranger, there is greater than a 90% chance that they will smile back. Imagine, two strangers walking down the street smiling at one another which ignites a joyful loop in both of their brains and starts releasing happiness chemicals throughout their entire body. A smile can truly change the world.
Reveal Your Smile
Many adults are embarrassed or self-conscious about their smile – but they don’t need to be! Our dental professionals at Advantage Dental Group are committed to giving you the smile of your dreams – so you can go around flashing those pearly whites to everyone! After all, smiling is more contagious than the flu. So, schedule an appointment today and together we can change the world – one smile at a time!