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A healthy smile means healthy self-esteem

Jessica Padykula is a freelance writer and editor in Toronto, Canada covering a wide range of  topics for several online lifestyle publications. She is a regular contributor for SheKnows, covering travel, style, relationships, health and...

Smile more, feel more confident

A white smile doesn’t just indicate healthy teeth and gums; your dental health also plays a significant role in how confident you feel. Think about it -- if you’re self conscious about your smile you’re not going to feel very good about interacting with others. With that in mind, we turned to psychologist Ann Demarais, Ph.D., and dental hygienist Kristy Menage Bernie, to get the scoop on why having a great smile matters – and how to get your pearly whites looking their brightest.

Woman with big smile

Great smile = confidence

Research shows that the better you feel about your looks, the better you feel about yourself, explains Demarais. "When your teeth look white and sparkly, you can relax, be in the moment and laugh. You are more confident and radiant," she says, adding that the mere act of putting your mouth in the shape of a smile changes the blood flow to the brain and actually makes you feel happier. The fact that smiling itself boosts your mood has a further positive impact because smiling has a contagious effect. "When you smile, others are more likely to smile back, and are more drawn to you, thereby increasing your confidence and happiness even more."

Smiles and perception

You might not realize it but whether or not you're smiling can have a significant impact how others perceive you. Having a radiant smile sends a huge positive message to those around you, Demarais explains. It tells people that you are happy to be in their presence, and it creates an optimistic feeling in others. When you smile, people are more likely to assume you have positive qualities -- they perceive you as more sociable, trustworthy and intelligent, compared to when you aren't smiling. So whether you're at a party, in a job interview or simply walking down the street, the fact that you're smiling will work to your advantage.

Poor smile confidence

Being unhappy with your smile usually means you don't do it very often – which means you aren't reaping the benefits outlined above. People who avoid smiling usually do so because they are unhappy with the appearance of their teeth. They may feel that their teeth aren't as white as they'd like, or that their teeth have lost their youthful sheen, which can make them feel ashamed about the appearance of their smile. When this happens people fall out of the habit of smiling or they do a closed-lip grin, which comes across as awkward or not genuine. "Most people are not aware of how important a smile is in how others perceive them or in how they feel about themselves," says Demarais.

Best whitening options

There are really only two options for optimal, long-lasting tooth whitening – and both are achieved by seeing a dental professional, explains Bernie. The two options are in-office whitening with a light (such as Zoom!) or laser treatment, or professionally dispensed whitening gels for use in custom trays. It is critical to consult a dental professional before any whitening process, for a few reasons. Whitening agents can only work when external stains, plaque and tartar have been thoroughly removed (which your hygienist can do), and a visit to your dental hygienist and an examination by your dentist will assure that your teeth and gums are healthy, as well as provide you the best options to whiten your smile.

Daily smile care

Research has shown that using sonic power toothbrushes can maintain whitening results and keep surface staining from forming, Bernie says. And it turns out we need all the help we can get. Studies have confirmed that we tend to spend 24 to 60 seconds on our oral hygiene and a mere 10 to 20 percent of us floss regularly and effectively. "With those statistics, it is clear that power brushes will dramatically improve daily plaque removal," she says.

It's also important to avoid habits that will stain your teeth such as tobacco use and consumption of coffee, cola or other foods and liquids that cause the teeth to pick up stain. Bernie also stresses the importance of routine visits to your dental hygienist to remove hard tartar or stains, which will ensure that you not only have a white smile but also a healthy smile. Your hygienist will also be able to recommend an optimal whitening option for you.

More about oral health

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How to get a celebrity-caliber smile
Get the best smile for your face

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