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A beautiful smile is a signal of youthfulness and joy to many people. There is something about a radiant smile that makes others feel calm, safe, and in good company. While it may seem to be a great mystery, there actually is quite a lot of science behind smiles and their beauty.
How Beautiful Smiles Show Youth
In most settings, the face is the first cue people have to estimate age. In modern society, social media and networking sites often have a place for people to post a picture, so a face can be a deciding factor in friendship initiation or getting an interview before other factors are considered. How people look is important.
Research has shown that smiling tends to make people appear more attractive, which makes people appear more youthful. One study had people guess the ages of people displaying an array of emotions in photographs. The study found that people usually guessed a person’s age to be around two years younger when the picture showed a happy face.
The brain, according to researchers from Ohio State University, has a specific spot that helps process facial emotional expressions, including smiles. This place is called the posterior temporal sulcus, and it is located on the right side of the brain near the back and bottom.
The researchers used fMRI machines to follow the blood flow of participants as they viewed faces, which allowed them to find where processing occurs because areas of high brain activity will have more blood. The study found that the posterior temporal sulcus is able to detect and process slight changes in facial movement to determine whether the face is happy or some other emotion.
The researchers then built a computer algorithm based on the data collected that confirmed the processing accuracy of the posterior temporal sulcus. When they looked at the brain as a whole, they found that the data remained very similar, which led them to conclude that the posterior temporal sulcus controls most of the processing of facial emotional expression.
How to Keep a Youthful Smile
As people age, some things get better, and some things get worse. Appearance is something that tends to get worse, which leads many people on a quest to keep their appearance young. There are a lot of products out there that promise youthfulness, but not all of them work as they claim too. Of course, there are some actions that will help keep that smile young and pretty.
Part of the aging process will occur in teeth. The teeth will get white and damaged as a person ages, which detracts from a beautiful smile. Brushing, flossing, and avoiding acidic foods will help keep teeth white and undamaged. Additionally, there are dental procedures that can be done to improve the appearance of teeth so that a person will continue to have a younger smile.
Aging also occurs in the skin on the face. Some people, both males and females, use cosmetics to make wrinkles and other blemishes on the face less dramatic. Facial exercises are a cheaper route to keeping facial skin and muscles tight and youthful. An example is holding a smile, keeping the head still, and moving the jaw up and down without moving any other part of the head.
Some people turn to a surgical procedure referred to as a lip lift. The procedure creates a youthful smile by making room for the teeth to show while a person smiles. The surgeon will remove part of the space between the upper lip and the nose. This makes the upper lip appear fuller, and it allows the top teeth to show through a smile. Objects like fillers copy some of the results of a lip lift, but they do not do as good of a job.
Botox injections are another possibility for people looking to keep a young smile. The Botox inhibits the movement of muscles in the area it is injected, and it also will help keep a smile from being too open. Sometimes, Botox can be used to keep eyebrows arched, which is another signal of youth to the brain. The Botox treatments will work for three to six months in most cases.
Dr. Marc Lazare is a cosmetic dentist. He is a lecturer, and he currently runs a private practice focusing on cosmetic and general dentistry in New York City. He earned his dental degree from New York University School of Dentistry in 1996, so he has years of experience that helps him treat his patients well.