The Power of Smiling

Smiling is often thought of as the result of a positive outlook or happy situation. While you are certainly more likely to smile when things are looking up, the power of your pearly whites can work in both directions. Sometimes, smiling will give you a boost of chemicals that can help produce positive emotions even when you’re not initially feeling them. A forced smile may seem counter-intuitive when you’re facing an unpleasant situation, but this could be just what you need to get through the hard times.

Reduced Stress

You may not think of a smile as the correct response to a stressful situation, but this may be just what you need. A study performed by Tara Kraft and Sarah Pressman and published in Psychological Science revealed that smiling reduces the body’s heart rate during stressful situations.

Participants were instructed to hold chopsticks in their mouths while performing difficult activities. Some were told to hold the chopsticks in a way that would produce a neutral expression, while others were instructed to hold them so they were smiling. Some of the smilers simply formed the right shape with their mouths, while others were further instructed to create a Duchenne smile, which reaches to the eyes as well.

Those who were smiling exhibited slower heart rates during their challenges, and those with Duchenne smiles had the lowest heart rates of all. Smiling is believed to boost levels of serotonin, even when the smile is forced. Serotonin is a natural stress reducer in the brain. The participants had lower self-reported levels of stress when they were smiling as well. This suggests that even a forced smile can help you deal with difficulties better.

Increased Happiness

Most people think of a smile as the result of happiness, not the cause of it. However, there’s some evidence that putting on a smile can actually help you feel happier. As neurologist Dr. Isha Gupta explains, smiling creates a chemical reaction in the brain that produces dopamine. Low dopamine levels are often associated with depression, while higher levels of dopamine produce a feeling of happiness.

Multiple studies have shown that participants who were smiling while watching a cartoon or film were more likely to perceive the action as funny compared to those with a neutral expression or frown. This indicates that grinning along with the group may help you laugh more easily at jokes and enjoy a more positive perception of what’s going on.

Improved Pain Tolerance

Though smiling alone isn’t scientifically linked with a higher pain tolerance, adding laughter to the mix may offer the key to withstanding discomfort better. A series of experimental studies performed by researchers from the University of Oxford collaborating with both US and European researchers examined the link between laughter and the ability to withstand pain. The study indicated that those who watched a humorous video and laughed together in a group exhibited an increased tolerance for pain.

Laughing with others is a key part of this phenomenon. Those who laughed alone did not enjoy the same benefit. Those jolly facial expressions and the simple act of laughing seems to make it easier to withstand pain in the immediate aftermath. If you have a painful procedure coming up, you may find it easier to handle if you sit down and have a good laugh with some friends beforehand.

Beating the Winter Blues

The winter blues aren’t just an old wives’ tale. This is a real phenomenon caused by the lack of sun in winter months. The decrease in sunlight correlates to an increase in depression, lethargy, and irritability for many. In severe cases, this is known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). One of the most popular ways to treat SAD is with light therapy. Lamps that mimic natural sunlight may help stave off some of the blues that come with short winter days.

If you’re feeling depressed during the winter months, smiling may help some with those blues as well. The boost in serotonin and endorphins in the brain will help boost positive emotions. While grinning isn’t the only thing you can do to beat the winter blues, it’s certainly one treatment option you can pair with other strategies to enjoy a more positive outlook on this season.

Now that you know how powerful your smile can be, it’s time to address any issues that are keeping you from showing off your bright grin. If you’re dealing with discoloration, gaps, chipped teeth, or other cosmetic issues, you may be less likely to smile no matter what the situation. When you have beautiful pearly whites to show off, however, you might find excuses to smile even when life is presenting you with a challenge. Take care of your teeth, so you can enjoy all the benefits of a healthy smile, extending far beyond your mouth.

Reposted from 123Dentist

Millennials don’t know how to brush their teeth.

Millennials aren’t so great at brushing their teeth, even when they’re asked to brush to the best of their ability. That’s the finding of a new study in BMC Oral Health that evaluated the toothbrushing habits of young adults.
Researchers from Germany recorded dozens of young adults brushing their teeth supposedly to the best of their ability. However, many study participants skipped entire tooth surfaces and sections, making the researchers question whether young adults know how to properly brush at all.

“Young adults apparently lack a reasonable concept of what is meant by high-quality toothbrushing,” wrote the authors, led by Renate Deinzer, Dr. rer. nat., a professor in the department of medicine at Justus Liebig University Giessen (BMC Oral Health, October 19, 2018). “More efforts should thus be undertaken to explain to them (and adults) this concept.”

What went wrong

Studies have proved time and time again that adults are notoriously bad at brushing their teeth. However, the researchers were curious if people’s toothbrushing quality would improve if they were asked to brush to the best of their ability.

To find out, they invited all young adults born in 1995 and presently living in Giessen, Germany, to participate in a toothbrushing study. They excluded participants who had any professional dental training, wore fixed orthodontic appliances, or had cognitive or physical impairments that affected their toothbrushing ability. They also excluded those who regularly used a powered toothbrush.

A total of 98 young adults were asked to clean their teeth to the best of their ability. The researchers recorded the young adults with a tablet computer while they brushed in front of a sink. All participants were provided with a standard toothbrush and toothpaste, as well as different proximal hygiene options, including waxed and unwaxed dental floss, superfloss, and interdental brushes.

“The good news from these observations is that young adults, when asked to perform oral hygiene to the best of their abilities, spent an average of 3:20 [minutes] brushing,” the authors wrote. “This is more than 60% above common recommendations and suggests they were motivated to give it their best.”

However, despite their marathon brushing time, the participants’ technique was less than ideal. The young adults spent 40% of their time brushing lateral surfaces horizontally, and nearly 70% of participants still had persistent plaque after they finished.

“These young adults brushed occlusal surfaces nearly 3 times longer than palatinal surfaces, even though gum disease and even caries in adults originate at lateral surfaces,” the authors wrote. “Furthermore, 80% of the study sample skipped at least one sextant when brushing palatinal surfaces; only 5% brushed all palatinal sextants for more than 7.5 [seconds].”

The lack of toothbrushing quality wasn’t the only concerning finding in this study. The researchers had also hoped to include interproximal cleaning in their analysis, but too few participants cleaned between their teeth to make it feasible.

“Only 15 participants performed interdental cleaning,” the authors wrote. “Furthermore, most of these applied them only in some interdental spaces.”

Need to improve education

The study focused exclusively on young adults in a small town in Germany, so the results may not be applicable to those living in other places around the world. Furthermore, the young adults opted into the study, which may have biased the results.

However, the findings are still worrying and suggest that many young adults do not know proper brushing techniques and may conflate brushing longer with brushing better. The authors hope that researchers will conduct similar studies in other countries and also that new studies will investigate whether various oral hygiene education interventions can improve young adults’ brushing behavior.

“The present study demonstrates that — at least in young German adults — the demand to improve one’s oral hygiene might be useless as long as it is not explained in detail what exactly has to be improved,” the authors wrote. “The observed distribution of brushing time across regions indicates that young adults have a poor concept of what is important while brushing.”

Is bottled water RUINING your teeth?

We test pH levels of seemingly innocent brands – and the results may surprise you…

By Maggie O’neill For
11 August 2017

It is widely known that soda, beer and coffee are bad for your teeth. Bottled water, however, seems harmless. But dentists warn that is not always the case. Some of the most popular brands of bottled waters have dangerous pH levels and lack essential fluoride, which can cause cavities. However, it is impossible to know from the label which ones are the safest – so we tested the pH levels of nine top brands to see which ones were the best and worst.

The pH level can range from zero to 14. On that scale, seven is neutral, anything under that is acidic and anything higher is alkaline. Our investigation found that samples of four of nine popular bottled water brands were very acidic. The brands – Smartwater, Dasani, Aquafina and Voss – had a pH level of 4.

How do bottled water brands affect your teeth?

We tested nine bottled water brands to see their pH levels. Brands with pH levels closer to zero are more acidic and can erode your tooth enamel. Brands with pH levels between seven and 14 are alkaline.

Smartwater: 4
Aquafina: 4
Voss: 4
Dasani: 4
Poland Spring: 7
Volvic: 7.5
Fiji: 8
Essentia: 8
Evian: 8.5

Drinking acidic water will harm your teeth, warns Dr Eunjung Jo of Astor Smile Dental. ‘Our enamel starts to erode at a pH level of 5.5 so it’s best to avoid any drinks with a pH that is lower than 5.5.’ Dr Jo also said that the damage done to your teeth increases proportionately with the time you spend sipping on a drink so spending three hours drinking a coffee is more harmful than downing it in 30 minutes. ‘The longer you sip and they stay in your mouth, [the] damage is bigger,’ she said.

She added that bottled water is not worse for your teeth than sodas, beer or coffee and she thinks Fiji water is the best for your teeth while Dasani, Voss and Smartwater are the worst. The lack of fluoride – a healthy ion that is good for tooth enamel – in bottled water can also be harmful. Tap water is regulated by the government, which makes sure it has accurate fluoride levels, but bottled water often lacks proper amounts of it. Dr Tema Starkman of High Line Dentistry said it is important to make sure you are always consuming fluoride. She said that this is especially important for children between the ages of zero and five whose teeth are still developing. If these children do not receive proper fluoride levels they can develop hypo-fluorosis, a condition that can leave white spots on their teeth, she said.

‘If they are not drinking a significant amount of tap water and are only drinking filtered, bottled water without measured levels of fluoride, then they could developmentally have problems.’

Infrequently Asked Questions: Why do we have wisdom teeth?

And what makes them so wise?

With millions of wisdom teeth extracted every year, it’s worth asking: If they’re such a (potential) danger to our health, why do we have them at all?

Curious, we reached out to Jefferson University Hospital’s Robert Diecidue, chairman of oral and maxillofacial surgery, and Daniel Taub, vice chair of oral and maxillofacial surgery, for the 411 on those stubborn third molars.

Why do we have wisdom teeth?

The world is full of questions we all want answers to but are either too embarrassed, time-crunched or intimidated to actually ask. With Infrequently Asked Questions, we set out to answer those shared curiosities.
The diet of our earlier ancestors was quite different from the one we have today. It consisted mainly of coarse food like raw meat, nuts, leaves and roots, which required extensive mastication force. Therefore, their bodies were suited with larger jaws that provided enough spacing to accommodate three pairs of molar teeth on each dental arch. Nowadays we boil, steam, bake, chop, cook, cut and dice almost every meal, making unnecessary an extra set of molars. With the evolution of the human race and the change in our diet, our jaws have become smaller and thinner providing no room for the third molars. Evolutionary biologists now classify wisdom teeth as vestigial organs or body parts that have become functionless due to evolution.

So they’re a product of evolution, then?

Yes. Our oldest ancestors relied more heavily on their larger jaws and teeth to be able to consume a tough and chewy diet consisting of leaves, roots and raw meats. Having 32 teeth was advantageous for greater chewing surface area. Having all 32 teeth was also advantageous just in terms of numbers and in the situation when a tooth — or teeth — were lost, there would be other teeth to chew [with]. Over time, man’s jaw has become smaller in size, possibly to accommodate a larger brain and cranium, or due to change in diet. As this has occurred, the jaw, in many cases, has become too small for the wisdom teeth to erupt.

Do all people get four?

Although most people typically get all four wisdom teeth, about 9 to 30 percent of Americans of European descent will get fewer than the ‘standard four.’ About 11 to 40 percent of African Americans and Asian Americans will develop fewer than four. Topping the list is the Inuit population of Alaska and Canada, who seem to develop missing one or more wisdom teeth 45 percent of the time. Some people are even lucky enough to develop extra, or supernumerary, wisdom teeth which are referred to as fourth molars. This happens about 2.1 percent of the time and most often occurs in the maxilla or top jaw.

Why are they more likely to not grow in straight — need to be taken out?

If there is inadequate arch space in the upper and lower arches, the jaws, this may prevent the wisdom teeth from erupting fully. Thus, space constraints may cause wisdom teeth to grow in at different angles. Once they come in partially, the overlying gum tissue can become infected due to food impaction in the area, as the wisdom teeth are hard to clean, thus they need to be removed in a timely fashion when patients are young and at the peak of their healing ability.

Why are they called wisdom teeth? Will I be less wise without them?

Third molars have been referred to as ‘wisdom teeth’ since the 17th century. In fact, initially, they were termed ‘teeth of wisdom’ and then later changed to ‘wisdom teeth’ in the 19th century. Eruption of these teeth is between the ages of 17 and 25 when a person reaches adulthood. Linguistic experts agree that they are called wisdom teeth because they appear once the brain undergoes full development. Research shows the brain does not achieve full maturation until the age of 25. Having your wisdom teeth extracted does not mean you will lose your wisdom, but you may lose some of the problems associated with them — such as pain, infection and bad breath.

How can people monitor or take care of their wisdom teeth properly?

Seeing your general dentist every six months is a great start. They will take radiographs, evaluate for decay, gingival health and help reinforce proper oral hygiene. The teeth can be monitored via routine, dental x-rays, panorex radiography or new technology 3D scanners (CBCT). If your wisdom teeth are not impacted, a functional occlusion routine evaluation by your general dentist along with radiographs are a great way to monitor wisdom teeth. If they have any concerns, they will refer you to an oral and maxillofacial surgeon for further evaluation and treatment.

By Brandon Baker
Originally published in the Philly Voice