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What Constitutes a Great Looking Smile

To your dentist in Tigard, every one of our patients have a perfect looking smile. No matter how shy, toothy, big, or lopsided your grin, a great looking smile comes in all shapes and sizes. However, the way people perceive a smile in social interactions and nonverbal communication can differ dramatically, says a new study from researchers at the University of Minnesota.

As part of the study, researchers asked over 800 participants to rate 27 computer generated smiles on their perceived effectiveness (very good to very bad), genuineness (genuine vs. fake), pleasantness (pleasant to creepy), and emotion expressed (surprise, sadness, happiness, fear, disgust, contempt, or anger). The generated expression was altered by variation in the mouth angle, the extent of the smile, the amount of tooth surface shown, and how symmetrical the smile.

The results of the survey found that a winning smile – one that participants rated as pleasant, genuine, and effective – less is more. In the study, smiles with a medium angel tended to viewed more favorably by participants. Conversely, wide, open-mouthed smiles were often judged as a sign of contempt or fear. Surprisingly, two of the lowest rated smiles were both very toothy. (This might explain why nobody likes looking back at the wide, toothy grins most of us feature in our high school yearbook photos.)

While previous research has suggested that facial symmetry often predicates whether a face is thought attractive when compared to asymmetrical faces, slightly crooked smiles were rated higher in this study. This result is consistent with principles employed in smile design, where dynamic symmetry, a state of being similar but not identical, allows for a more unique, dynamic, vital, and natural smile compared with static symmetry, according to researchers.

The results of this study could have broad applications in a variety of field, including facial reconstruction surgery and rehabilitation for individuals who have suffered from neurological conditions, cerebrovascular accidents, trauma, cancers, or infections that have deprived them of the ability to express emotions through facial movement, concluded researchers.

The social and psychological consequences of facial impairment can cause extensive damage to individuals who have suffered any kind of facial trauma. Studies have found that individuals with partial facial paralysis are often misunderstood, have difficulty communicating, suffer from isolation, and often report experiencing depression and anxiety.

While most of us don’t consider the important role nonverbal communication plays in how we interact with others, those who suffer from facial paralysis or trauma face significant hurdles communicating on a daily basis. Researchers hope that by better understanding how we visually interpret what constitutes a friendly and approachable smile medicine can begin to offer better treatment options designed to restore facial communication in those in need.

The results of this study, titled “Dynamic properties of successful smiles,” was recently published in the June issue of the journal PLOS ONE.

 

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