National Smile Week: How a Healthy Smile is a Natural Drug
In the height of summer, there are plenty of things to grin about. Add National Smile Week to the list and you have fresh reason to flash your pearly whites. National Smile Week takes place during the second week of August, seeking to promote dental health and the maintenance of a bright, healthy smile. Beyond making you look more attractive, a smile - and what's going on in the mouth behind it - plays a large role in the overall health of your body. While some believe "the eyes are the window to the soul," the mouth is no doubt the gateway to the body. Drop diabetes risks Scientists point out that maintaining a healthy grin can reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes, among other problems. Few people realize that diabetes and oral health are inextricably linked, even though a recent study shows diabetes now affects at least 1 in 10 Americans. The connection all starts with sugar. Sugar is one of the leading causes of tooth decay and the standout side effect when the body fails to produce insulin properly. As a result of insulin resistance, blood glucose (sugar) cannot be kept at normal levels, which can reach the gums and teeth and leave them vulnerable to cavities, gum disease and more. But proper brushing habits can significantly lower this problem. Releases feel-good chemicals Smiling has also been known to release endorphins, serotonin and natural pain relievers, according to a study conducted by the British Dental Health Foundation. While we know that joy is the source of smile, the smile can also be the source of joy. Our emotions are reinforced and even driven by their corresponding facial expressions, so even a simple grin during National Smile Week could lift your mood. Surely, smiling is a natural drug. When we grin from ear-to-ear, it increases happiness both in yourself and those around you. Brain activity has been shown to reach the same level of stimulation when people smiled as eating multiple chocolate bars. Stress reliever Furthermore, turning those lips upward lowers blood pressure after a stressful situation, researchers at University of Kansas found. During challenging multitasking activities, the participants were shown to have a lower heart rate while smiling, indicative of feeling more relaxed. In the midst of our go-go-go schedules, smiling for a minute or two could bring your bring your heart rate back to normal and keep stress at bay. A genuine smile uses muscles both in the mouth and the eyes. While "fake it 'till you make it" works to an extent with flashing a smile, an authentic one truly works wonders for your body and those around you. What you eat, drink and smoke all factors into the mechanics of your organs, blood and waistline. Yet many of us often overlook the first stop: the mouth. Before your body converts nutrients or chemicals into energy, your teeth and gums have to deal with it first. From National Smile Week forward, brushing twice a day, flossing daily and regular dental visits are key in tooth decay and other oral health problems. You don't want to end up with bad breath, which is often a red flag that signals underlying conditions such as gum disease and tooth decay. During National Smile Week, you have an opportunity to make the changes you want to your smile - perhaps a halfway point to dust off those goals from those New Year's resolutions.