This Is the Secret to a Picture-Perfect Smile, According to Science

Updated: Aug. 01, 2017

Think you've perfected your selfie smile? Researchers say some grins are better than others.

We all have our own idea of what the perfect smile should look like, whether we show a mouthful of pearly whites or keep our lips closed and turned up at the corners just so. While there are many good reasons to get grinning—including the incredible health benefits of smiling, new research suggests that there really is a proper way to smile, and it has everything to do with facial expression.

When we think of the perfect smile, we often envision a wide, beaming grin, with all of our teeth showing, but based on new findings, less is actually more. For the open-access journal, PLOS ONE, Nathaniel Helwig and his colleagues at the University of Minnesota discovered that a successful, genuine smile actually rests less on showing teeth and more on facial balance and symmetry, Science Daily reports.

Scientists-Discover-the-Secret-to-a-Perfect-SmileIzabela Magier/shutterstock

For the study, researchers looked at 3D computer-animated facial models of more than 800 study participants. The computer-animated facial models underwent a series of facial transformations, with researchers changing the mouth angle, amount of teeth shown, the extent of the smile, and how symmetrical the smile was. Participants were then asked to rate the models’ smiles based on effectiveness, genuineness, pleasantness, and perceived emotional intent.

The results of the study found that the most successful smile—one that was rated most pleasant, genuine, and effective—had a perfect balance of teeth, an ideal mouth angle, and a smile length that extended to what was dubbed the “sweet spot.” Smiles that demonstrated a quick sync of the left and right side of the face during smiling were also more highly related.

The fact that the smile models were computer-generated shouldn’t take away from the results, as previous studies have found that studying electronic facial models can be a great asset in researching “how changes in expression over space and time affect how people read faces,” the study co-authors told Science Daily. They believe that “using 3D computer animation may help to develop a more complete spatiotemporal understanding of our emotional perceptions of facial expression. Since some people have medical conditions such as stroke which hinder facial expressions, with possible psychological and social consequences, these results could also inform current medical practices for facial reanimation surgery and rehabilitation.”

As Science Daily notes, smiling makes up a good portion of our nonverbal communication, making it important to have a grin that will draw people to you and also seem sincere. It’s also worth noting that perfect smile could help improve your health too.