A Beautiful Smile is Good for Your Brain

Are you really smiling or are you faking it?

We can tell, you know. We’re trained professionals in creating beautiful smiles, and as such, we’ve done a bit of research. Did you know that animals can’t really smile, but they can laugh? Studies have shown that some apes and primates, like chimpanzees and orangutans “laugh” when they’re playing or tickling each other. In 2004, researchers in Sweden discovered that dolphins make a certain sort of whistle when they’re play-fighting, but never when they’re actually being aggressive. It seemed to signify that the play was sort of fun for them.

We also studied the physiology behind the smile. There are over 40 facial muscles that create a smile, and they’re all tied to the zygomaticus major. This is the muscle that goes from the corners of your mouth up to your cheekbones. You can control this muscle to muster a smile, but you can’t fake a true smile – The Duchenne Smile.


Guillaume Duchenne became a doctor way back in 1831. He was primarily interested in neuromuscular disorders, but during his study of facial expressions, discovered that when we truly smile – when we mean it! – the skin around our eyes crinkles up.

Laugh lines!

When you smile, your brain releases these little molecules called neuropeptides. These molecules help all of your neurons talk to each other, and they also help to release some neurotransmitters: dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin. When these things are released, your heart rate slows, your blood pressure drops, and you begin to relax.

Smiling, you see, is a great stress-reducer.

A big part of the reason that we became orthodontists was to help folks realize their best smiles. In addition to the many health benefits of properly aligned teeth, we learned how important it was to be able to freely smile. Having a great smile boosts your self-esteem. It contributes to your sense of pride and overall well-being.

Having a great smile is good for your mental health.

We believe this so much that we are now proud partners of the Cameron K. Gallagher Foundation.

Cameron was a beautiful and bright young lady who could light up any room. She also struggled with anxiety and depression. She wanted other teenagers to understand that they weren’t the only ones who felt the need to sometimes hide her feelings and began planning a fundraising program to raise awareness of teenage mental health – the SpeakUp5k. Just after finishing her first half-marathon, in training for her inaugural SpeakUp5k, she collapsed due to a sudden cardiac arrhythmia and tragically passed away.

The CKG Foundation continues in her memory, raising awareness about teenage depression and anxiety and working to be a positive force. We’re proud to help them in their mission, and now donate $25 towards their foundation for every new patient who begins treatment with us.

We know, through our educations and experiences, that having a healthy, beautiful smile is good for your health.

Gardner & La Rochelle Orthodontics in Richmond, VA