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  • How Smiling Affects Your Health

    Your smile is one of the first things people notice about you. But smiling does far more than just make a good first impression—it can even impact your mental, physical, and social health. Here’s why it’s good to smile as often as you can.

    How Smiling Affects Your Mental Health

    Chemical reactions occur in the brain every time you crack a smile. Here are three specific ways these chemical reactions affect your mental health:

    • Improved mood: Smiling releases serotonin, a feel-good brain chemical that acts as an anti-depressant and mood booster. Many pharmaceutical treatments for depression work by influencing the levels of serotonin in your brain. Smiling does this naturally. Don’t believe it? Try forcing yourself to smile when you’re feeling blue, and you just might feel better.
    • Lower stress and anxiety: Smiling activates the release of neuropeptides that fight off stress. This leads to greater feelings of happiness and improves your ability to handle and recover from stressful situations. It’s one reason some people laugh to relieve the tension during an awkward encounter.
    • Natural high: Similar to exercising, smiling releases endorphins. These neurotransmitters create feelings associated with a “runner’s high.” Smiling also produces dopamine, which plays a role in how you feel pleasure. It’s the same chemical released when you satisfy a food craving or listen to your favorite music.

    How Smiling Affects Your Physical Health

    Because your brain and body are closely linked, the mood-boosting, stress-relieving, pleasure-inducing effects of smiling also impact your physical health. Here’s how:

    • Natural pain relief: The endorphins released when you smile can relax your muscles and act as a natural pain reliever. In this way, smiling can lessen some types of aches and pains, or at least distract you from them for a while.
    • Better heart health: The stress-reducing capabilities of a smile can also protect your heart. After all, when you’re less stressed, your heart rate and blood pressure go down, which is good news for heart health. In fact, smiling every day can reduce your risk of developing heart disease.
    • Stronger immune system: Have you ever noticed that people with positive attitudes are more likely to recover from illnesses? It’s not just your imagination—smiling and laughing can increase the level of immune-boosting white blood cells and infection-fighting antibodies. Laughter really is the best medicine!
    • Improved cellular health: If you’re not already sick, smiling can help you stay that way by keeping stress-induced inflammation and tension at bay. When these conditions run rampant, the body’s cells become more susceptible to mutation and disease. Some cancers have even been linked to high stress levels. Smiling more is an easy way to protect yourself from illness.

    How Smiling Affects Your Social Health

    The world is simply a better place when you smile, so watch funny movies often, smile at strangers, and vow to be the positive person in your group of friends. When you make smiling a routine part of your day, here’s how you benefit socially:

    • More attractive, youthful appearance: You look your best when you smile. Both men and women rate each other as more attractive when they smile and make eye contact. You may even appear years younger simply by cracking a smile. So don’t worry about those laugh lines—smile big and smile often!
    • Better relationships: People treat you differently when you smile. This facial expression makes you appear more relaxed, friendly, sincere, and likable. Exhibiting these characteristics gives you a better chance of building and maintaining relationships, which benefits your overall well-being.
    • Ability to spread positivity and joy: Looking at a smiling face activates the orbitofrontal cortex, the brain region that processes sensory rewards. This suggests that others feel rewarded when they see you smile. Then, their brain coaxes them to return the favor. That’s why smiling is contagious—it helps everyone feel happier, healthier, and less stressed.

    Protect Your Smile with Routine Dental Visits

    Having good oral health increases all the mental, physical, and social benefits of smiling. To make sure you always want to show off your smile, remember to reserve regular teeth cleanings and oral exams.

    When the team at West County Dental cares for your smile, we look for any oral health concerns that might require intervention. With our watchful eye combined with good at-home care on your part, you’ll be able to smile with confidence for years to come. Give us a call today at (314) 488-2921 or contact us online to reserve your next visit to our St. Louis, MO dental office.


  • How to Care for Your Smile During the Holidays

    It’s easy to neglect your mouth during the hectic holiday season, but oral care is extra important this time of year. After all, with sugary snacks readily available and stress levels at their peak, your teeth and gums need all the attention they can get. Here’s how to care for your smile during the holidays.

    Keep Up Your Dental Care Routine

    The excitement of family visits, holiday parties, and gift-giving may distract you from your regular dental care routine. Keep your mouth healthy by remembering to do the following:

    • Brush for good dental hygiene: Brushing your teeth is a fundamental part of good oral health. For the best results, brush at least twice a day for two minutes. Hold your toothbrush so the bristles run along your gums at a 45-degree angle. Gentle, back-and-forth scrubbing motions are best. Don’t forget to clean your tongue as well, which harbors bacteria that can cause bad breath.
    • Pick the right toothbrush and toothpaste: Select a small-headed, soft-bristled toothbrush that fits comfortably in your mouth. If you are prone to plaque buildup and gum problems, consider using an electric toothbrush. Buy a new toothbrush (or toothbrush head for your electric model) every three months. Also, unless your dentist instructs you otherwise, use fluoride toothpaste.
    • Floss daily: Even the most thorough brushing leaves plaque, food particles, and bacteria between your teeth and under the gum line. To remove them, remember to floss once a day. Gently guide the floss between each tooth, being careful not to snap it against your gums. Remember to get behind your rear molars as well.
    • Use mouthwash for extra protection: Your teeth account for less than half of the surface area in your mouth. Rinsing with mouthwash is important to remove biofilm and bacteria that brushing and flossing leave behind. When selecting a mouthwash, find one with fluoride and antimicrobial properties for the most noticeable benefits.

    Eat the Right Food

    It can be hard to resist temptations this time of year, but for the sake of your oral health, it’s important to say “no” to your favorite treats sometimes. Enjoy everything in moderation this holiday season, but keep the following in mind:

    • Drink plenty of water: Staying hydrated isn’t just important for your overall health—drinking water also rinses your mouth of food particles and harmful bacteria, helping you avoid plaque buildup and cavities.
    • Choose healthy treats: When you want a snack, reach for carrots and apples this holiday season. These deliciously crunchy snacks are packed with nutrients and effectively scrub your teeth as you eat them.
    • Chew sugarless gum: Chewing sugarless gum after a meal stimulates saliva flow to wash away food particles and neutralize the pH in your mouth. This can help prevent tooth decay and cavities. Plus, minty gum freshens your breath.
    • Avoid certain beverages: Many popular holiday drinks can damage your smile, including tooth-staining coffee, acidic white and red wine, and sugary hot chocolate, apple cider, and eggnog. It’s okay to indulge in your favorites at times, but rinse with water afterward to remove sugar, acids, and dark colors from your mouth.
    • Avoid sticky treats and hard candies: Caramel, taffy, and dried cranberries may taste delicious, but these sticky treats cling to your teeth, promoting cavities and sometimes even yanking out fillings! Then, the sugar in candy canes, suckers, and other hard candies linger in your mouth, feeding bacteria that can cause tooth decay.
    • Avoid starchy foods: Sugar cookies, rolls, crackers, chips, and other starches tend to leave particles wedged between your teeth, sometimes for hours. If you indulge in these goodies, rinse with water or chew gum afterward to clear out your mouth.

    Know When to Visit the Dentist

    The holidays are a busy time, but you may still need to see your dentist before the season is out. Here’s how you know it’s time to reserve your next visit:

    • It’s been six months since your last cleaning: The American Dental Association recommends visiting the dentist regularly. For most people, this means reserving an exam and cleaning twice a year. If you have periodontal disease or other oral health problems, you may need more frequent visits. Just follow your dentist’s advice.
    • You feel self-conscious about stained or discolored teeth: If dark-colored drinks and acidic foods have left their mark on your smile, you don’t need to wait six months between each cleaning. Many patients reserve dentist appointments every three to four months to ensure they can always smile with confidence.
    • You experience toothaches or sensitivity: From dull pain to throbbing toothaches, any discomfort in your mouth is worth checking out. Sudden temperature sensitivity is also a cause for concern. If any oral changes affect your ability to sleep, speak, or eat, see your dentist right away.
    • Your dental crown, bridge, or dentures aren’t fitting well: Teeth are prone to shifting over time, so if any dental work or removable appliance feels too tight, too loose, or simply “off,” call your dentist.
    • Your gums bleed a lot when you brush or floss. A little blood isn’t a huge concern, but if the bleeding is significant or lasts for weeks after establishing a new flossing routine, this could indicate a gum problem. If left unaddressed, you could develop periodontal disease.
    • You injure or knock out a tooth: Emergency dentistry aims to alleviate pain, stop ongoing bleeding, and save damaged teeth. If you or your child needs emergency dental care, call your dentist right away.

    Reserve Your Next Visit at West County Dental

    As a family dental practice in St. Louis, MO, we are devoted to restoring and enhancing the natural beauty of our patients’ smiles. We offer state-of-the-art preventative and restorative services to help keep your teeth merry and bright throughout the holiday season and beyond! Give us a call today at (314) 488-2921 or contact us online to reserve your next visit.