A smile may be a “window to our soul,” but it’s also a window to our mental and physical well-being. On average, adults smile under two dozen times per day while a child may smile up to 400 times a day. While kids experience the same gamut of emotions that adults do, genuine smiles come more naturally to our children. We want our kids to live joyful and amazing lives. We long to prepare them to face the world in ways that allow them to shine. In order to do so, it’s vital we take care of their dental health–and, we need to take care of our own teeth, too.
So, where do we start? When we’re afraid to show off our smiles, what does that say about our mental and physical well-being? Or, if our grins reveal yellow or decaying teeth, how might that impact our lives? How can smiling improve overall health?
A child may feel insecure about their teeth and hide their smile from those around them. This insecurity may spill into their academic performance and keep them from interactive extracurricular activities that may be vital to their social development and overall health. If we empower kids to feel confident in their smiles, we lend to the betterment of their lives as well. If a child’s smile reveals unhealthy teeth, this also may explain why they experience other mental and physical health issues.
Let’s take a look at how smiles make a statement about our overall health, and how smiling more can positively impact our life.
Smiling reduces stress in children and adults
In 2012, Psychological Science conducted a study on the health benefits of smiling. In the course of the study, 169 participants were asked to perform stressful tasks while forcing certain facial expressions. The researchers found that participants who were told to hold a Duchenne smile–a smile which engages mouth and eye muscles–recovered from stress far more quickly than those who held neutral or “standard” smiles (smiles which only engage mouth muscles). Smiling participants also had lower heart rates after the completion of the stressful tasks and a less intense feeling of stress, even if they didn’t feel happier after the study.
Similarly, a 2009 study on facial expressions from Oxford found that smiling can actually produce happiness and reduce stimulation to the amygdala–our brain’s center for processing fear and anger. And in a study out of UC Berkeley, researchers were able to correctly predict the overall success and well-being of alumni solely based on their smiles in yearbook photos–the wider the smile, the more successful the subjects of the study.
It may feel counterintuitive to smile when we’re stressed, or to help our children to smile more often–but science speaks to the positive results. Along with signifying the state of our dental health, our smiles are connected to alleviating our stress and anxiety levels.
Smiles can show warning signs of disease and illness
When smiles reveal yellowed teeth, chipped teeth, or teeth with thin enamel, this can indicate serious dental and overall health issues. Untreated teeth infections like cavities or abscesses can spread throughout the body and cause heart problems or even sepsis. Chipped teeth can expose sensitive nerve-endings and lead us or our children away from nutrient-rich foods that can improve our overall health. If flossing isn’t included in our family’s dental hygiene routines, gum disease could become a major issue.
According to the CDC, kids with poor dental health tend to accrue more school absences and earn lower grades than kids with healthy teeth. The CDC also lists tooth decay as a top chronic childhood disease. Often the result of untreated cavities, tooth decay can lead to developmental issues in children–including speaking and learning. Tooth decay may also prevent people from ingesting vital fruits and vegetables. Regular dental cleanings, daily flossing, and sugar-free diets can help prevent tooth decay.
At Ashburn Children’s Dentistry, we have been growing healthy faces for over 16 years. We believe that teeth health can have a huge impact on children’s overall well being –physically, socially, and academically. We aim to diagnose and resolve the root of any dental issue, rather than treat the symptoms alone. Contact us for a virtual consultation today.
Smiles can help boost immunity
Another cool perk of smiling is that it can help boost our protection against physical illness. Did you know that smiling more each day can actually boost your immune system? Yes, scientists have discovered that smiles impact our overall physical health, too.
When we smile, our bodies relax and release neurotransmitters that improve the function of our immune systems. If our kids tend to frown often, or don’t want to smile for fear of embarrassment, we may find they get sick more frequently than their smiling friends. We should intentionally bring fun and joy into their lives to help coax those smiles to the surface. Simple smiles can help lead our families to improved health. You can also read more about another easy way to increase your immunity here.
How to improve our family’s smiles
Our smiles can tell much about our overall mental and physical health. By taking the following steps, we can help to improve our smiles:
- Regularly schedule dental cleanings for ourselves and our children–at least once every six months.
- Create a regular dental care routine for ourselves and our children: By brushing our teeth at least twice per day (after breakfast and before bed) and incorporating flossing into our dental care regimen, we can help prevent cavities, gum disease, and tooth decay.
- Avoid foods high in sugar content. Sugary foods can erode tooth enamel and cause cavities.
- Practice smiling when negative situations arise. Don’t discount anxiety and stress, but remember that smiles can actually help ease these struggles.
It’s important to instill confidence in our family members to help them to feel comfortable breaking out into genuine grins. And remember, if we take care of our smiles, we can live better, healthier lives.