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Gum health may influence smile patterns

Need a good reason to have a big smile?

Having healthy teeth and gums may increase the quality of life and help you find a smile, a study published in the Journal of Periodontology suggests.

Researchers found evidence that periodontal disease affects how people smile. They concluded that periodontal disease might negatively affect peoples' smiling habits and even discourage them from displaying positive emotions with a smile.

"Since periodontal disease is prevalent in such a large number of adults, we sought to investigate if the disease affects a person's smiling behavior," said study author Dr. Marita R. Inglehart. "Smiling plays a significant and essential role in overall well-being. Previous findings suggest that smiling can affect social interactions, self-confidence and can influence how people perceive one another."

Conducted at the University of Michigan, the study evaluated the smiling patterns of 21 periodontal patients as they viewed a segment of a comedy program. At predetermined points throughout the segment the researchers assessed three dimensions of the patients' smile: the horizontal width of the mouth, the open width of the mouth and the number of teeth shown.

In addition, the researchers noted the number of times patients covered their mouths while watching the segment. Patients' individual perceptions of how their quality of life is affected by their oral health were also considered. The data were then evaluated along with a clinical exam of patients' periodontal health.

The more symptoms of periodontal disease found in the study subjects' mouths, such as periodontal pockets between four-to-six millimeters deep or loose or moving teeth, the more likely they were to cover their mouths when smiling or to limit how widely they opened their mouths during a smile.

In addition, the more gum recession a patient had, the fewer teeth he or she showed when smiling. The way patients perceived their quality of life as a result of their oral health was also significantly correlated with the number of teeth affected by periodontal disease.

Please contact the ADA if you have questions about this article.

©2010 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

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