Smiles – No Translation Needed!

smile types smile sarasotaThere are hundreds of languages in the  world, but a SMILE speaks them all!

A smile is the most universally recognized and understood gesture every culture understands and 99.9 percent of the population enjoys giving and receiving. We can identify a smile more easily than any other expression, even from a distance of up to 300 feet. We smile when we when we feel good, when we see someone we love, when we reach a long-awaited goal, when we’re embarrassed, and when we need to mask anger we can’t appropriately express at the moment. We even smile on cue when anyone with a camera calls out, “Say cheese.”

Different Types of Smiles

University of California San Francisco researcher Paul Ekman and his colleagues identified 19 different types of smiles. Categorized into two basic categories, polite “social” smiles engage only mouth muscles, and genuine, happy “felt” smiles activate muscles on both sides of the mouth and around the eyes. Felt smiles light up the left frontal cortex of the brain where pleasure is registered. University of California at Berkeley psychologists Dacher Keltner and Lee Ann Harker identified six basic types of smiles to express feelings. The last three turn on the enthusiasm switch. They are:

  • POLITE Smile: We turn up both corners of our lips, but there’s no engagement with our eyes. We give this type of smile to strangers. The polite smile is often used by politicians or others with a personal agenda.
  • ASYMMETRICAL Smile: We raise one side of our lips higher than the other. This is also referred to as a fake smile.
  • EMBARRASSED Smile: We bend our heads forward a little, look away or down, and press our lips together when we smile. It’s used when we have made a mistake, overstepped our limits, or been caught doing something against the norm.
  • GENUINE Smile: Our lips rise up and part, our teeth may even show. Our eyes light up and crow’s feet (tiny wrinkles that do have a grander purpose!) appear on our skin around the edges of our eyes. A muscle under our eyes also lifts up. (For some people, it’s the best and only exercise they get all day!) It’s also known as the “Duchenne Smile,” named after an 18th century French neurologist who first reported on smiles of the will and smiles of the heart.
  • LOVING Smile: We tilt our heads toward others while we’re doing the GENUINE smile.
  • SYNCHRONIZED Smile: We do the GENUINE, LOVING smile and add a forward-leaning body movement toward the recipient, showing that we’re on the same wavelength.

Physiologically and emotionally, a smile tells our brains that we are safe, that we fit in (or want to fit in), and that we can relax. When we smile at others, it sends a message of trust and good will. Consequently, we’re seen as open and approachable.

If you are into statistics, this is interesting! How often do people smile?

Number of smiles per day at home – all adults:

  •  Five to 20 times: 46 percent
  •  More than 20 times: 36 percent
  •  Less than five times: 14 percent

Number of smiles-per-day at work – all adults:

  • Five to 20 times: 30 percent
  • More than 20 times: 28 percent
  • Less than five times: 13 percent

Chances are you’ve rarely given thought to the impact of your smile on your energy level, health, success, or relationships. You may have been aware of your “grin factor” if you were a shy, serious child prodded by your parents to smile for the neighbors. Or, as a teen, if you had a crush on someone and practiced your smile in the mirror while having an imaginary conversation. Or, more seriously, if you are self-conscious about your teeth or you feel depressed and just can’t seem to find your smile at all.

Smiles are a sign of good health and happiness, so make sure yours is healthy! Give Smile Sarasota a call and let us help you have healthy teeth and gums for life and keep those smiles coming!


Sources and Credits: Opinion Research Corp. International, University of California