The History of Smiling & Its Social Impact

woman holding a green paper smile in front of her face

Today, people smile big for the camera. But it wasn’t always like that. Here, we’ll explain the history of smiling and its social impact.

Pre-18th Century

Before the 18th century, people didn’t smile in portraits. If people did smile, people would consider them insane, drunk, stupid, childish, or even wicked. Only low-class people would smile and therefore most people kept their mouths in a line. Furthermore, at this time, most people didn’t really care about their oral health. There were no regular checkups and cleanings, and most people dealt with dental issues by simply pulling out a tooth if it was bothering them.

18th Century Paris

In 18th century Paris, modern dentistry was born. The modern toothbrush was invented and in 1723, Pierre Fauchard, a French surgeon known as the Father of Modern Dentistry, published The Surgeon Dentist, A Treatise on Teeth, which is considered to be a text that established the foundation of modern dentistry, including oral surgery techniques, oral anatomy, and the construction of dentures. Advancements in dentistry such as the first patent for porcelain teeth, the first known case of post-mortem dental forensics, the first known dental foot engine, and the first chair made specifically for dental patients were also made in the 18th century.

Because of all this, people began to take care of their teeth and therefore wanted to show them off, and with the emergence of the Enlightenment, people are much more open about showing their emotions and expressing their thoughts and feelings. In the 18th century, a smile becomes a part of life for the first time and created a more egalitarian sense of humanity.

20th Century

With the invention of the camera came another resurgence in smiling. Though at first people seemed hesitant to smile in their own pictures, Kodak used extensive marketing that emphasized the happy experience of taking a photo of you and your family and loved ones at milestone events and holidays. Advertisements showing beaming models encouraged people to smile in their own photos, as well. This coincided with a change in culture that was morphing into something more genial and open than previous generations. Happiness and smiling was intertwined thanks to advertising and the smile became solidified as a way to show and express joy.

Do you feel too self conscious to smile in photos? Contact us today so we can schedule an appointment and figure out how we can help you get the smile of your dreams!

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