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The smile and social inclusion

Updated: Nov 27, 2021

Cristiana Ciobanu, CITST

The importance of a good smile is undoubted, this is why oral hygiene should be of utmost concern, especially for older adults.

The ubiquitous smile is known to us all. It can be defined as the facial expression which denotes happiness, delight, amusement, and an array of similar emotions. Through smiling, we communicate our positive moods and feelings to the people around us. Through the act of smiling, we pave the road for meaningful human interaction.

According to Encyclopaedia Britannica,

The social smile is apparently innate in the human species[1], there is evidence that even people born blind have this movement of the face muscles deep embedded into their genes, being able to smile exactly as a sighted person would when they experience certain emotions [2]. This means that for the human species, smiling seems to always have been incremental to showing joy and appreciation. Over the thousands of years we smiled, it evolved so that it is no longer just nurture – learning by the imitation of parents or peers – but also nature, an instinctual action.

The smile in two-month-old babies is "their first true sign of social responsiveness"[3]. By smiling, babies invite adults to interact with them, they show the world they are ready to play and to receive attention. Thus, we can say that a smile serves a social purpose, communicating certain messages to the people we meet. A genuine smile makes people around us perceive us as open, outgoing individuals, which are easy to approach and get along with. A smiling person makes a good first impression, whether at a social gathering, at a job interview, or while trying to persuade someone to take into account other opinions or views. A smile is a way in which we can say "I love you" or "I am happy to have you in my life" to our loved ones without having to utter a single word.

But what can we do when we have an imperfect smile? How can we express our emotions through smiling if your smile does not match with what is socially acceptable or expected? Often, people with ‘bad’ smiles simply decide to not employ them. They are afraid to show their imperfect or missing teeth, developing smiling anxiety. Smiling anxiety can lead to low self-esteem and self-confidence, which, in turn, can lead to serious psychological problems. According to a study concerning the social integration of older adults, ‘those with more teeth and fewer oral health problems are more socially engaged’[4]. Bad teeth or breath either determines older adults to self-isolate from the community or it creates prejudice among acquaintances, friends, and family, which, in turn, tend to avoid the person.

The importance of a good smile is undoubted, this is why oral hygiene should be of utmost concern, especially for older adults. In time, oral health tends to deteriorate due to aging and lack of care, which leads to a variety of problems, from periodontitis and tooth decay to missing teeth.

Take care of your teeth before it’s too late!

  • Wash your teeth twice a day, use dental floss and mouthwash.

  • Make appointments with your dentist periodically in order to professionally clean your teeth and prevent dental problems.

Be responsible – prevent, don’t treat!

References: [1] [2] Matsumoto, D. and Willingham, B., 2009. Spontaneous facial expressions of emotion of congenitally and noncongenitally blind individuals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 96(1). [3] [4] Arcury, T., Chen, H., Savoca, M., Anderson, A., Leng, X., Bell, R. and Quandt, S., 2011. Ethnic Variation in Oral Health and Social Integration Among Older Rural Adults. Journal of Applied Gerontology, 32(3), pp.302-323.


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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