One of the most rewarding parts of being a dentist is the moment when a patient looks in the mirror for the first time after treatment and smiles back at themselves. They see themselves in a new light, and we dentists know that this new smile will have a much bigger impact on their lives than they know. It’s evident how your smile factors into your happiness.
A healthy smile is so important to our social, financial, and physical well-being that It’s troubling to learn that one in four adults avoid smiling due to their teeth and mouth, according to a 2015 study from the American Dental Association. That’s a lot of people; too many, in my opinion. Being proud of your smile is too important to happiness to ignore.
Friend of Foe?
First impressions are important. Imagine meeting two people for the first time. The first is a woman who smiles at you and her smile is confident, with straight, white teeth, and fresh breath. The second is a man who never smiles, and when he talks you notice he has crooked, yellow, and missing teeth, and stale breath.
Be honest, all other things being equal, don’t you form a better impression of the first person? We’ve likely judged the woman as friendly and confident, while we draw unflattering conclusions about the man’s approachability, hygiene, health, and habits.
No wonder that people who aren’t confident in their smile don’t like to smile, when they know they’re being judged. Yet being able to smile is important in making and maintaining connections with other people. My wife and I run a dental practice together and have heard from many patients over the years that once they took care of their smile, they made new friends, met someone special, or got a better job. All because of their smile.
Unemployable for the Wrong Reason
That last thing might have surprised you – what does a smile have to do with getting a job? Here’s how.
I read a story once in the Desert News in Salt Lake City, UT, that made a big impression on me. It was about a woman named “Shelly” who worked a temp job in a front desk position. She was friendly, competent, and well-liked, yet she wasn’t hired full-time once her temp position ended. She found out that her crooked and bucked teeth kept her from the job. The office manager wanted someone at the front desk who reflected the right image of the company.
This story breaks my heart. What makes it unique is not that “Shelly” wasn’t hired because of her teeth, but that the hiring manager actually told her this was the reason. Most hiring managers are not as transparent. Yet I would guess that many feel the same way, and judge an applicant’s employability in part on their smile. This is yet another way – a drastic one – that your smile can impact your life and your happiness.
Happy Smile, Happy Health
We tend to compartmentalize our health: see a cardiologist for the heart; an ENT for ear, nose or throat pain; a dentist for toothache. But our body doesn’t see it that way. It’s all interconnected. A problem in one area can lead to problems in another. That’s true for the mouth, too.
Normally, when teeth and gum line are healthy, they form a strong defense against bad bacteria from entering the body. When they aren’t healthy, these defenses break down, allowing bacteria to enter the body and wreak havoc. Bad oral health has been linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and preterm birth and low birth rate.
That’s why oral health is not just about teeth and gums and the mouth but about whole body health and wellness.
What Makes Us Happy?
Many things contribute to happiness, with strong relationships, good income, and robust health at the top of the list. Go look in the mirror now and smile at yourself. Is your smile helping you achieve the happiness you want, or is it holding you back? I hope you love your smile, but if you don’t, I encourage you to take action to improve it.