The Perfect Smile

Researchers at the University of Minnesota have recently discovered the key to a successful smile, and you may find it surprising. Historically, symmetry has often been credited with producing the most beautiful smile, but this new study, published in the PLOS ONE journal, shows that may not be the case.

According to a recent article from the Dental Tribune, researchers asked 802 participants to rate 27 computer-animated smiles on their perceived effectiveness (very bad to very good), genuineness (fake vs. genuine), pleasantness (creepy to pleasant), and emotion expressed (anger, contempt, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness or surprise). The animated expressions included variations in mouth angle, the extent of the smile, the degree to which teeth were shown and how symmetrically the smile developed.

The results suggest that the most favorable smile – perceived as effective, genuine and pleasant – is one that takes a “less is more” approach.  Smiles with a medium angle tended to be judged more favorably, while wide open-mouth smiles were often considered as a sign of fear or contempt. The two lowest-rated smiles were both very toothy. Most surprising was that slightly crooked smiles were rated higher in this study than previously thought. Researchers believe that this is a result of principles of smile design, in which dynamic symmetry, or being very similar but not identical, allows for a more vital, dynamic, unique and natural smile compared with static symmetry.

Researchers are hopeful their results might be useful in a areas like facial reanimation surgery and rehabilitation in individuals who have suffered from trauma, cerebrovascular accidents, neurological conditions, cancers or infections that have diminished their ability to express emotions through facial movement. Research has shown that the psychological and social consequences of facial impairment can be quite extensive, with the frequent misinterpretation of individuals with partial facial paralysis. They often become isolated and report symptoms of anxiety and depression after having trouble communicating.

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