The minute you meet someone new, your subconscious starts summing them up. Within seconds, we have made a subliminal assessment. This is based on various factors, one of which is the size and shape of a person's teeth.
"The minute we meet someone we are making assumptions about every aspect of their personality and disposition before we even process what they are saying," says cosmetic dentist Dr Christian Coachman.
"Studies have shown it is virtually instantaneous. Before the information reaches the visual cortex in the brain, we've subconsciously made a list of conclusions about them and then respond accordingly."
Cosmetic dentists say models, movie stars and even politicians rely on their smile to shape their public image, which is why many of them undergo cosmetic procedures to give the impression they want.
"Square teeth, for example, give a masculine impression," explains cosmetic dentist Dr David Dunn.
"Halle Berry is a good example, and it looks like she has had veneers to create that image, which suits most of her roles.
"Her square-shaped teeth can give the impression she is in control, relatively unemotional and calm, as well as diplomatic, objective and entrepreneurial.
"Compare that with oval teeth, which signal a sadness and pensiveness about life, as well as giving the impression a person is organised, artistic and possibly timid in personality. Julia Roberts seems to have natural teeth and hers are a combination of the two."
There are four personality types associated with a person's teeth: sanguine or dynamic (triangular-shaped), choleric or strong (rectangular-shaped), melancholic or sensitive (oval-shaped) and phlegmatic or peaceful (square-shaped).
Many of us are a combination with a mixed group of different shaped teeth, so give off a range of messages.
"These models and concepts are not new," Dunn explains.
"It was Hippocrates who determined a person's personality is made up of four basic temperament types, we have taken these and modernised them to help understand how we interpret and communicate."
Dunn says it's not just the famous who want to change their smile.
"We often see people who say they've been born with the wrong teeth, and want to change them," he says.
"This is because the person they are does not match the impression and messages their teeth give out to the world about them.
"In some cases they live with considerable frustration and confusion. Many people don't know why they are struggling to get people around them to see them for who they are, and in some cases, their smile is the problem. For those people, cosmetic dentistry can help."
Sydney psychologist Janine Rod agrees that a person's smile is critical to people's perceptions.
"If I were to rank all the factors that go into creating a likable personality, I would have to place a friendly smile at the top of the list," she says.
"A warm, authentic smile communicates feelings that words alone can't accomplish. A great smile radiates warmth, puts people at ease and makes a good first impression."
Dunn says there are various options, including veneers, braces or bleaching, for people who want to fix their teeth.
"One of the latest breakthroughs is technology which allows cosmetic dentists to create a plastic model of a patient's new smile. It sits around their teeth allowing them to see how they feel about the new look before they have any work done."
This is where a patient gets to road test the theory.
But Dunn warns that people should be wary of requesting teeth like their favourite celebrity, as many of the images we see are airbrushed and re-shaped.
"Weight is not the only thing that is re-styled by air-brushing," he says.
"I have seen so many different versions of Angelina Jolie's teeth for example. She has her own teeth (as opposed to veneers) and they aren't perfect, so her teeth are often air-brushed in magazines."
He also warns against the quest for perfection. "In some cases veneers are a bad decision, people are looking for crazy perfection - it doesn't exist."
Janine Rod agrees.
"We are often too hard on ourselves as we strive towards perfection. The world of advertising wants us to have buff bodies, attractive faces and great minds.
"Life is not always a pleasant journey. If we strive too hard for perfection, we can almost always be disappointed."
- Sydney Morning Herald
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