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Our smiles have come a long way, evolutionarily speaking. In the past, our primate ancestors used their smiles to convey a threat or warning. As a result, when baring their teeth, primates communicate their displeasure about their current situation.  

A smile, as we know it now, conveys various social meanings. For example, a smile speaks of joy, happiness, and other positive emotions for many.

 See Whiteridge Aesthetic Dentistry Smile Gallery here.

Different types of smiles

However, researchers have identified the following 19 different types of smiles. Contrary to popular opinion, only 6 of the 19 smile types are associated with happiness. Research on 19 Different Smiles.

  1. The fixed polite smile is more or less a grimace. As a result, it is perceived as ugly or disgusting. Often times the person appears to be surprised.
  2. The embarrassed smile is used to express an awkward response of embarrassment. Often time self-consciousness or shame are associated with this smile. It sends a message something may be inappropriate.
  3. The tight-lipped relieved smile expresses, “that was a close call.” But, most likely, anger or frustration is being suppressed. The smile appears to be “forced.”
  4. The exhausted smile expresses a sense of accomplishment after completing a lengthy task. As a result, an exhausted smile indicates resources or reserves are entirely used up. However, the triumphant look creates a connection with those who view this smile.
  5. The sadistic smile is used to convey jealousy. Furthermore, pleasure is derived by inflicting pain on the object of envy. This smile is not designed to uplift or connect.
  6. The exasperated smile shows annoyance with a person or situation. As a result, irrational actions or thoughts can occur. Shouting may occur next!
  7. The compliant smile indicates lousy news but will be endured. Usually, disagreeable information is found in the form of rules, laws, or regulations. The use of this smile can convey contempt.
  8. The diplomatic smile becomes a professional smile. This smile is used cross-culturally to indicate mutual approval. Their eyes get wide as their lips smile.
  9. The ecstatic smile broadcasts that life is wonderful. Usually, the joy of the situation is overwhelming. Shrieks of laughter can soon follow.
  10. The exaggerated smile is an imitation of joy. The smiler is feeling the opposite emotionally. The smile is said to be “forced.” The smile creates discomfort.
  11. The worried smile indicates the situation is uncomfortable. Often expressed as a frown. Crying could be the next expression.
  12. The delighted smile proclaims joy. Usually, the person is greatly pleased. They want others to enjoy their pleasure.
  13. The warm smile promotes encouragement. It is meant to give support, confidence, or hope. This smile can motivate others to do well.
  14. The meditative smile displays a Buddah-like compassion. This indicates a person is absorbed in thought. A person is being mindful when giving a meditative smile.
  15. The amorous smile is flirtatious. This smile is used to convey romantic feelings towards another person. Eyebrows may be raised too.
  16. The French anatomist Guillaume Duschenne identified the Duschenne smile. This smile involves the crow’s feet wrinkles around the eyes. As a result, the Duschene Smile is closely associated with or proceeds laughter. This is what most describe as the common smile.

The Duschenne Smile

As mentioned, French anatomist Guilluame Duchenne pioneered the study of smiles. The so-called Duchenne Smile is the joint action of two facial muscles. The zygomaticus major muscle lifts the corner of the mouth while the orbicularis oculi raise the cheeks, causing the subsequent laugh lines at the outside corners of the eyes. Read more about The Duchenne Smile here

Charles Darwin and other researchers have confirmed the Duchenne Smile is the smile that marks true enjoyment. The constriction of the eyes is the telltale sign that a person is truly delighted as their face reacts to an unrestrained smile. Often laughter proceeds the smile.

Furthermore, there are even mental health benefits derived from the Duchenne Smile. First, the smiler connects faster, almost instantly with others in a social situation. Next, this positive response from others can change an individual’s response to stress. Finally, all involved in smiling are observed to be happier.

Social Media, The Smile, and The Selfie

Social media, the smile, and the selfie have unwittingly become their own three-headed monster. Social media’s insatiable demand for pictures, via selfies, created an endless supply of smiles. 

As we clamor to share our lives on social media the smile finds its way into the myriad of pictures taken and posted daily.

Social media has even created its own unique smile. You know the one where people purse their lips and tilt their heads for the camera? This pose has found a long-lasting place for itself in the history of social media.

How To Smile

The website, Wiki How outlines seven steps on how to actually smile: 7 Ways to Smile

  1. The tried a proven method of saying “cheese” works in creating a smile. Saying the word cheese seems to mimic a natural smile. Furthermore, we usually find humor in a photographer and others suddenly shouting out, “say cheese!”
  2. Relax the eyebrows and jaw muscles. Take a deep breath or even close your eyes. Once relaxed the smile will be a natural response.
  3. Think about something funny. Remember a funny story, experience, or joke. Your smile will turn to laughter!
  4. Try to avoid showing teeth. Of course, this can backfire and you end up laughing!
  5. Practice smiling in front of a mirror. By observing yourself smile, you will increase your confidence the next time you attempt a smile.
  6. Surround yourself with things that make you smile. Smiles are a reflection of how we feel about our environment. Pictures of a puppy, a baby laughing, a favorite place, etc. 
  7. Keep your smile perfect with good dental hygiene. You will be more likely to share a smile knowing your teeth are clean and polished.

If you are struggling to smile just remember the lyrics from the song Disney’s Teen Beach 2 movie:

If we can do it, so can you

Tooth by tooth, row by row

When you let your happy through

The whole room starts to glow!

Twist that frown upside down

You gotta twist that frown!

Whiteridge Aesthetic Dentistry serves the Salt Lake Valley, Cottonwood Heights, Mill Creek, Park City, and Summit County.