The Path to Happiness May Be Through Your Mouth

Have you been to the dentist lately? If you have, pat yourself on the back. Congratulations on taking a major step to a happier life! If you haven't, pick up the phone and get an appointment set as soon as possible. Your dentist is waiting to help you live a happier, healthier life. Yes, your dentist. You may have heard that your dental health is connected to your overall health, but did you know that it may also be helping or hindering your ability to feel happy? There are several ways that healthy teeth can help raise your happiness meter.

The Chemistry

When you smile, some interesting things happen in your brain:

  • Neuropeptides (molecules in the brain that help neurons communicate) are released. One of the benefits of this action is a decrease in your stress level as your smile sends a message upstairs that you are feeling good.
  • Serotonin is also released. This neurotransmitter helps regulate mood. Low levels of serotonin can lead to sadness and even depression. A smile is a drug free way to increase serotonin in the brain which will improve your mood.
  • Dopamine is a chemical that, when released in your brain, helps you feel pleasure. There are a multitude of experiences that can cause the release of dopamine, but a smile is one of the simplest, and it's free!
  • Endorphins are released and react with the opiate receptors in your brain. This interaction decreases the way you perceive pain. Your reaction to endorphins is similar to what your reaction to some pain medications would be, but comes without the nasty risk of addiction.

The Social Factor

Think for a moment about the interactions you've had with people today. Did you pay any attention to the facial expressions involved and if those facial expressions affected the way you related to each other? When people smile they are perceived as friendlier, more agreeable, easier to connect with and more confident. When someone you are interacting with is smiling, you feel that they are more likely to understand you. And when you are smiling, people perceive the same things about you. Positive interactions lead to more positive outcomes and better moods.

The Studies

So, if smiling is an easy, no cost, addiction free way to feel happier, why don't people smile more often? For many people that reason is about poor oral health.

  • A study conducted at the University of Michigan confirmed this idea. Participants were observed as they watched a comedy show. Those with oral health issues didn't show as many teeth or covered their mouths when smiling.
  • A study done in Liverpool, England showed that people rated themselves as having a lower quality of life due to missing teeth. Their self-consciousness and feelings of negativity about their appearance affected their daily activities. Following the insertion of implants, their quality of life score went up.

If poor oral health inhibits a person's desire to smile, then it is only reasonable that having healthy teeth and gums would produce the opposite effect.

Take a moment to consider the state of well-being inside your mouth. Have you been taking good care of yourself? Or are there issues such as discolored teeth, old silver fillings, crooked or ragged teeth, red or swollen gums, gaps or missing teeth? If so, you can see how your dentist could be instrumental in helping raise your level of happiness. With their expertise, these problems can be fixed and you can be smiling again in no time. And with those smiles come all of the benefits that can help you be a happier person. For more information, contact a business such as Milner Dentistry.