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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.