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Keep your smile, as a messenger of emotions and intentions

Updated: Nov 27, 2021

Cristiana Ciobanu, CITST

The smile is one of the few universals in body language, carrying a similar meaning across all cultures. So, let's keep your smile with maintaining good oral hygiene.

On a daily basis, we interact with family, friends, acquaintances, and strangers with the help of verbal and nonverbal communication. However, experts agree that 70 to 93 percent of communication is nonverbal[1], and this type of interaction consists of small gestures, eye movements, facial expressions, changes of posture, etc. We are going to focus on the smile as a messenger of emotions and intentions. The smile is one of the few universals in body language, carrying a similar meaning across all cultures.

In Romania, for example, the smile is considered "your business card", meaning that it is of great importance in how the people around you perceive you; if you smile often and your smile is genuine, you have more chances of being seen as an outgoing person, easy to talk to and delightful to be with. Conversely, if you don't smile, people will often perceive you as serious, rigid, or even grumpy, reducing the chances of fitting in.

In Poland, smiling should reflect the inner feelings, meaning that if you do not feel happiness, appreciation, joy, or any other emotion which could evoke a grin, it is considered impolite to smile[2]. We can find the same situation in France and Germany, where people are usually reserved and smile only if they really feel like doing so[3]. Similarly, in Russia, smiles are seldom seen on the street, between strangers or acquaintances, mostly for good friends or family [4].

In Britain, it is considered polite to smile. According to Arapova, the smile is considered 'an integral feature of British nonverbal communication, which is seen as the lack of aggressiveness towards those around oneself' [5]. Thus, British people see the lack of a smile in a conversation as disrespectful. Something similar applies to Switzerland, smiling is a way to show respect during a conversation, and it is expected of you to smile, regardless of your true feelings[6].

America is known for its particularly smiling citizens, whose habit to always smile, even at strangers, sets them apart from other nations. As Szarota states, positive feelings have central importance in the American culture[7]. This is in great contrast with Japan, whose culture dictates that people should smile to keep a social balance, regardless of their true feelings[8].

As we can see, the act of smiling can have different functionalities, depending on the culture, but it always retains the aspect of expressing (positive) emotions. Can we imagine how difficult it would be to say our happiness while concealing an imperfect smile wholeheartedly to paint a contrasting picture? Would our joy, amusement, love, or even politeness be the same without the central piece of a warm smile or jolly laughter?

As we can see, our lives are heavily impacted by such a minor detail: the infamous triangle shape we make with our mouths. Sometimes, it can convey more love than any book ever could. Other times it helps us deal with stressful situations and solve conflicts better than any negotiator. And what does it cost? Less energy than a frown and the 10 minutes per day necessary to wash, floss and rinse with mouthwash.

However, we are not the only ones who enjoy examining perfect smiles; the stomatologists who dedicated themselves to that same goal would also like to consult your pearly teeth every six months such as to prevent any cavity or dental problem from ruining your smile, causing pain and burdening your life for no good reason.

When are you going to see your dentist next?

References: [1] [2] Szarota, P., 2011. Smiling and Happiness in Cultural Perspective. Austral - Asian Journal of Cancer, 10(4). [3] Szarota, P. The Mystery of the European Smile: A Comparison Based on Individual Photographs Provided by Internet Users. J Nonverbal Behav 34, 249–256 (2010). [4] Arapova, M., 2016. Cultural differences in Russian and Western smiling. Russian Journal of Communication, 9(1), pp.34-52. [5] Idem. [6] [7] Szarota, P., 2011. Smiling and Happiness in Cultural Perspective. Austral - Asian Journal of Cancer, 10(4). [8] Idem.


About Aceso

ACESO is a patient-centric solution for smart and sustainable healthcare, employing a co-creative approach to realize integrated health and oral-care platform in which intelligent devices use data analytics for adaptable health and wellbeing. ACESO will monitor parameters related to physical health (blood pressure, glucose, heart rate, oxygen saturation, etc), activity, sleep, and oral hygiene in an integrative manner which will provide primary users with personalized and adaptive feedback extracted by an underlying artificial intelligence engine. A patient-centric approach that actively involves users in maintaining their health will bring clear benefits for the elderly and caregivers. Aceso is funded by AAL. More about Aceso...

About AAL

AAL- Ageing Well in the Digital World - is a funding program that aims to create a better quality of life for older people and to strengthen industrial opportunities in the field of healthy aging technology and innovation. More about AAL.


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