History of the Smile

//History of the Smile

History of the Smile

You smile every single day, often without even thinking about it. If you did stop to think about it though, would you wonder why you smile? Or when babies first start smiling? Or maybe why all those people in old-timey photos didn’t smile? Let’s take a quick look at the history of smiling to see what it’s really all about!

How did smiling come about? Well, we kinda stole the idea from animals…the smile can be traced back over 30 MILLION years to monkeys and apes who often used barely clenched teeth to portray to predators that they were harmless (known as a “fear grin”). Another theory claims we heisted it from animals back then who bared their teeth in warning to others. Either way, animals seem to be the origin and we humans picked up the habit and gradually it evolved. It did take awhile for smiling to really catch on though (as you can tell from early art and photography).

Why were so few people in early paintings caught with smiles?  A big reason is because sitting for a portrait takes an incredible amount of time and holding a smile for that long is really hard to do, often ending up instead as awkard grimaces. Then there was the fact that in these early days, grinning was considered the expression of drunkards, paupers, and paid entertainment, and not at all dignified. In fact, smiling was considered downright childish! Smiles began appearing in paintings in the 1500s and really began to come into fashion during the Enlightenment period (1700s) as it was thought to  signal a relaxed unstuffy sociability and healthy virtue. These weren’t the toothy grins we’re accustomed to though. Dentistry wasn’t quite what it is today and people frequently had very bad teeth – if they even had teeth at all. In fact, did you know that by the time George Washington was inaugurated he only had ONE natural tooth left? Make sense he wouldn’t smile for his presidential portrait, huh?

People still didn’t smile later on in photographs for similar reasons. Early cameras exposure times took quite awhile (the daguerreotype, the camera that revolutionized photography with its lightning fast exposure time? Still took FIFTEEN MINUTES!), so there was still the issue of holding poses for long periods of time. The fact that photographers asked their clients to say “prunes!” instead of “cheese!” made duckface a much more likely option anyway…And while dentistry had improved, it still had a ways to go.

Other quick smile facts:

  • At just 9-10 months, an infant is capable of offering a false smile or fake laughter to a stranger but reserves the real smiles and giggles for someone they are comfortable with like a parent.
  • There are TWO types of smiles: a) the Duchenne smile, which you might know as “smizing” or “smiling with the eyes”, and b) non-Duchenne smile, which means just the corner of the mouth lifting, no smizing involved.
  • Smiles mean different things in different cultures. In some parts of Asia, people may smile when they are embarrassed or in emotional pain. Many people in the former Soviet Union area consider smiling at strangers in public to be unusual and even suspicious behavior.
  • Smiling became actual habit with the advent of not just photography but cinema in the 1900s. In fact, Kodak played an important role in this with marketing campaigns.


Which brings us to now where we have state-of-the-art dentistry and the current fashion is white straight teeth + plenty of smiles! Why do we like white teeth so much? For one, a bright white smile makes us look younger (when’s the last time you saw a kid with yellowed teeth?). A beautiful white smile also indicates good health and excellent hygiene, plus builds our confidence. If you’re looking to build confidence and wow the world with your brilliant smile, our spring offer is for you – our GLO in-office whitening and take home kit are currently $485 (a savings of $200!). Call us today at 201.438. 2373 and start saying “cheese!” instead of “prunes”!

By | 2018-04-10T16:34:05+00:00 April 10th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

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