Restoring Mature Smiles

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Losing Your Smile

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Do your grandparents seem more grouchy as they age? Perhaps you try to cheer up their stern expression because they don’t appear as joyful as in their youth. There are many reasons for this.

We hear a fair amount of jokes by the time we pass the age of 50. So we develop a higher standard for humor. Some people try to shield less-than-perfect teeth. Others hold back to prevent smile lines. Arthritis begins stiffening joints so normal activities can cause a grimace.

Some natural smiles reveal few teeth. Other people smile so wide you can count some of their molars. A big beautiful smile is almost a prerequisite for a successful acting career. Name a popular person with a prominent smile. Anne Hathaway and Julia Roberts come to mind. Perhaps your smile is not as prominent.

People say it takes more muscles to frown than it does to smile. Most of the 43 muscles in the face are controlled by the seventh cranial nerve (also known as the facial nerve). Since amusement varies from a smirk to boisterous laughter, there is no way to say how many of the 43 muscles it takes to smile.

How To Smile

Exercise Your Smile

Paula Niedenthal and colleagues from Cardiff University and the University of Glasgow published a set of experiments to expand our understanding of the human smile. They identified three distinct expressions and the individual facial muscle combinations that make them:

  1. Smile of reward
  2. Smile of affiliation
  3. Smile of dominance

Each smile involves contraction of the zygoma­ticus major muscle. Especially for the aging male population, the muscle weakens. Over time, our smile gets narrower vertically and wider transversely.

Expect your facial expression to change as the years pass. How wide your smile begins in youth affects your smile later in life. If you begin with a big smile and lose a little width, you can still convey a happy mood. Joyfulness is a sign of good health.

Did you know that you can improve your smile through exercise? If you do not use your smile muscles, they atrophy and weaken like any others. A smile exercise program was developed in 1989 to strengthen facial muscles and improve appearance of smiles.

Closing and opening your mouth widely for 10 to 12 repetitions can help stretch and tone the smile muscles. Practice widening your smile, extending your chin, and stretching facial muscles with your fingers. Take care of your teeth and put forth effort to exercise your smile throughout your life. So there are some health benefits to listening comedies or watching funny cat videos.

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Kevin Williams is a health advocate, artist, pro­gram­mer, and writer of hundreds of articles for multiple web­sites. He has 17 years experi­ence as a Neutrogena Research and Scientific Affairs graphics con­sul­tant.

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