It’s become common knowledge that the more you smile the more control you have over your own well-being and healthy relationships with others. Psychologists go as far as to say that smiling in the face of adversity can alter your mood and thus make more sound decisions. In all settings be it professional or social, we greet others with a smile. This custom has developed over millions of years of evolution and not surprisingly we rarely ask the question, why do I show my teeth to the world?
Picture credit: Kat N.L.M.
Teeth provide evolutionary cues to individual fitness. A nice smile that reveals healthy teeth is found to be attractive and many men and women claim it is a feature they look for in a potential mate. Regardless of the shape and texture of lips, size of the nose or colour of the eyes, healthy teeth can make an otherwise unattractive face appear appealing and pleasant to the eye.
Teeth are made of hard tissue, dentine and the enamel which is sensitive to physiological stress and can reveal much about an individual’s life history. Whereas in the wild male chimpanzees flash their teeth to incite fear in an attempt to discourage a rival to fight them; well-looked after teeth in humans show that an individual has the means and time to look after himself, indicating that his social status is financially secure. At other times a male chimpanzee will show its teeth to a female for her to measure his fitness by taking a look at its sharp giant canines which in turn tell her that he is strong and is evolutionary fit to protect her and secure territory and food.
Evolutionary speaking the female is the most on demand sex and will go where the food can be found. It is the male’s dependency on the female to reproduce that keeps the order in the chasing game – which mate chases who.
Picture Credit: Odontologia UPC
Hard tissue business
For humans, healthy teeth are aesthetically pleasing but more than that they also point at healthy genes and fertility and the social and cultural context of an individual. So it’s neither the big smile of a male often associated with the trait of generosity nor the heart-shaped lips of a female that are thought to arouse sexual appeal towards the opposite sex, it’s simply teeth.
It’s important to educate ourselves on the development of the hard tissue – bone and teeth – in order to understand our own evolution and behaviour. More understanding can result to adopting successful behavioural traits that mean in strictly evolutionary terms, more mating opportunities.