For most of us, smiling is something that comes naturally–it’s part of the American Dream to be able to smile. Smiling can mean more promotions, and smiling at one another is an essential part of being a couple.
But for some people smiling is simply impossible. People suffering from various types of facial paralysis are unable to smile, which can make it harder for them to communicate, forcing them to rely on alternate techniques to communicate their emotions.
A Stigma Associated with a Lack of Expression
One of the more significant forms of facial paralysis associated with an inability to smile is Möbius syndrome (sometimes abbreviated MS). People with this disorder can be stigmatized by others during social interactions. They are perceived as being less happy or less sad in social situations where those emotions are considered “appropriate.”
As a result of the stigma people with MS feel, they have been found to be less inhibited and may have a lower satisfaction with life. But the biggest obstacle they face is in their social competence. It is just harder to communicate with people when you can’t call on your smile or even a frown when you need it.
Communication Strategies Can Help
But there are other ways to communicate successfully. Researchers found that some communication strategies that can be taught in a relatively short workshop can be used to sidestep the limitations imposed by facial paralysis.
For this study, a small number of teens interacted with strangers who didn’t know about their facial paralysis. One set of interactions was done at the beginning of the study. Then the teens with facial paralysis attended a short workshop where they were taught how to express emotion with hand gestures and using different speech patterns (prosody). Neutral reviewers (not the researchers) rated the recorded social interactions blinded (they didn’t know which was before and which was after the workshop), and found that the workshop had improved the teens’ ability to communicate.
How Are You Avoiding Smiling?
Many people actually have a smile, but they choose not to use it. Maybe every once in a while there may be a slight upturn of the lips, but they strictly avoid showing off their teeth because they are unhappy with the appearance of their smile. If this is you, you probably have a number of techniques that you use to try to communicate without your smile.
Wouldn’t you really be happier if you could just put these avoidance strategies aside and just smile? After all, if you’re lucky enough to be able to smile, shouldn’t you try to enjoy it? But if you just can’t make yourself smile because you’re too unhappy with the appearance of your smile, cosmetic dentistry can help.