Scientists Say That to Get the Most Successful Smile, Less Is Always More

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When you think of a perfect smile, chances are you think of a wide grin with gleaming, straight and perfectly-aligned teeth, but new research suggests that’s not entirely the case. A recent study by researchers at the University of Minnesota discovered that what others perceive as a “successful smile” has less to do with how much of your teeth you show and more to do with facial symmetry and balance.

Published recently in the PLOS ONE journal, researchers throughout the course of the study showed a series of 3D computer generated faces to 802 participants. Using variations in the size and symmetry of the smile and angle of the mouth, each face had a slightly different expression. Participants then rated the smiles on how pleasant, effective and genuine each face appeared when smiling and what they thought the emotional intent behind each smile was.

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The study found that the smile that was rated most pleasant, genuine and effective—or the most “successful smile”—had a perfect balance of smile length, an ideal mouth angle and how much teeth were barred. Contrary to popular belief, the biggest smile didn’t equal the best smile.

The right combination was dubbed the “sweet spot,” and other smiles that showed a sync of the left and right side of the face were also rated highly. Unsuccessful smiles were those that had high angles on each side, were too broad and showed too many teeth and were rated as “fake” or “creepy.” Unsurprisingly, smaller smiles with smaller angles were the most likely to be thought to show “contempt.”

Beverly Hills cosmetic dentist Laurence Rifkin, DDS, says he doesn’t believe computer generated 3D models show the full picture of what makes up an attractive or successful smile. “Using computer generated facial models with no variation in race, gender, age or facial type is misleading. It demonstrates no variation in the importance of the eyes in an authentic smile which cannot be overlooked even with a lower face ‘perfect smile,’” says Dr. Rifkin.

When it comes to achieving a smile that is perfect for you, Dr. Rifkin believes a cosmetic dentist with a clear understanding of facial aesthetics can help you achieve your most successful smile. “These results are so vague that they do not approach the vast knowledge and studies of the smile and the compositional factors of the teeth, lips, gums, facial muscles and underlying skeletal structures,” adds Dr. Rifkin. “Let’s not also forget that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, form follows function and one man’s bait is another man’s sushi. We all have personal preferences.”

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