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Wikipedia defines a smile as “a facial expression formed by flexing the muscles near both ends of the mouth.” But, we all know that a smile can be so much more. Smiles are used to convey happiness, amusement and pleasure. They are a social communication tool that crosses international, racial, cultural and language boundaries. Lesser known are the positive and lasting effects that smiling can have on your life. Multiple studies have explored the physiologic and psychological benefits of smiling. “The Hidden Power of Smiling,” a TED* talk by Ron Gutman takes a closer look at some of these studies that affirm the power of a smile. A study at University of California Berkley linked the size of a person’s smile in their old yearbook photo to their current life’s well-being and success. Those with the widest smiles consistently scored better on standardized tests for general happiness, had higher rates of marriage happiness and length, and were found to be more inspiring to others. A Wayne State University study researched smiles on baseball cards in the early 1950’s. It found that the players who smiled in their photos lived, on average, seven years longer than the non-smiling players. A Penn State study showed that people appear more attractive, more likable and more competent when they smile. Smiling also make us feel better by producing endorphins and reducing levels of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. So now that you know the power of a smile, we hope that you’ll smile big and smile often!

*TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less). TED covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 100 languages. You can learn more about TED and view the talks at www.ted.com.

Dr. Clay VanderWall

Author Dr. Clay VanderWall

Dr. VanderWall attended Kalamazoo College, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Health Sciences. He spent a semester doing research at the Dental Research Center of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill where he wrote his Senior Individualized Project (SIP). He furthered his studies at the University of Detroit-Mercy School of Dentistry, receiving his Doctor of Dental Surgery in 1999. He graduated with honors and was inducted into the national dental honor society, Omicron Kappa Upsilon (OKU). He also received the Pierre Fauchard Academy Student Award and was a recipient of the Health Professions Scholarship from the United States Navy.

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