Don’t be afraid to smile – the connection between oral health and self esteem
We were watching the Logies last week, and seeing a sea of smiling faces got us thinking: do people smile more when they already feel good about themselves, or does smiling help you feel good about yourself?
As dentists, it’s not unusual for us to notice people’s smiles, but we also know that everyone notices them. We’ve seen reports from numerous studies about how we all judge others by their appearance, particularly on a first impression, and how a smile instantly makes people think you’re a nicer person than if you don’t smile.
And if the studies, our training, and our instincts weren’t enough evidence to go on, we also have patients who come to us lamenting the appearance of their teeth and smile.
Some initial consultations even start with “I don’t like my teeth” or “My teeth look terrible” or some similar negative statement.
How having ‘bad’ teeth can affect people
Having imperfect teeth can contribute to shyness or insecurity, making us reluctant to smile.
That can result in avoiding situations where you’re encouraged to smile, such as group photographs or celebratory gatherings, or repressing a smile in situations where people normally smile, like face-to-face meetings or when someone tells a joke, which can lead people to think you’re unfriendly, unhappy and/or humourless.
Smiling is also a welcoming gesture, so when we don’t smile when we meet people, they feel less welcome. For teenagers, in particular, that can have as drastic a result as having fewer friends, which can start a downward spiral.
If you fear that you’ll be embarrassed when you express your joy in a smile, you’re not only negatively impacting how others see you, but also your own state of mind, because repressing smiles is likely to alter your mood – and not for the better.
Your teeth are often better than you think they are
The first thing for you to know is that dentists know all about this. We understand that most people want their teeth to look nice even more than they want them to actually be healthy!
For us, the two go hand-in-hand (or is that tooth-in-gum?) to a large extent. If your teeth, gums, tongue, and mouth in general are in good health and well cared for, there’s a much greater chance of you having a nice smile – and feeling like showing it.
The second thing is that you scrutinise your teeth far more closely than anyone else (apart from us, of course). Some relatively minor imperfection you see every day when you look in the mirror can take on far greater prominence in your own view than it ever will for others looking at you.
But, as psychologists tell us, how you feel is crucial as your self-esteem is a significant factor in how confidently you present yourself to the world which, in turn, contributes to how others perceive you.
What can we do?
The most common reasons people don’t like their smile are all fairly easily remedied.
If your teeth are stained or discoloured, or perhaps the colour of the enamel is just inconsistent on your most prominent teeth, we can help with professional cleaning and whitening. In some cases, veneers might be the way to go.
If your teeth are crooked or misaligned, Invisalign or traditional braces can help straighten them and minimise any gaps.
If you’re missing a tooth, you feel that your teeth are too small, or there are noticeable gaps between them, we have several options, such as implants, bridges, and porcelain veneers.
Even if you feel like you show too much of your gums when you smile, we can address that with some soft-tissue adjustment.
But whatever the reason for you feeling less-than-happy about the way your teeth look when you smile, we’ll have a treatment that can help.
Don’t be embarrassed about coming to us
We want you to be confident, to see yourself in a positive light, and to get the most joy out of life, so we want you to want to smile a lot.
Helping you achieve the best possible smile – one that you want to put on display – is a big part of what we do (and why we do it).
After all, no-one should ever hold back from reacting to the good things in their life in a natural way: no-one should be afraid to smile.
So, even if it’s a slight discolouration, a small chip, a bit of a gap, or an irregularly-shaped tooth, please come in and tell us what you’d like to improve if you could.
Chances are, you can.