There are two types of people in the world: Those who smile with their mouth open, and those who smile with their mouth closed. The former presumably have better teeth than the latter, and are likely more confident as a result (which explains why they happily show off their pearly whites). And the fact is, our mouths—much like our hair—play an integral role in the formation of our self-esteem, because according to psychologist and psychotherapist Jeanette Raymond, they provide a firsthand look into our literal inner selves.
As she points out, your mouth is one of the first things people see when meeting you, and how it looks says a lot about how much effort you put into your own cleanliness and well-being. “Yellowish or off-white teeth indicate aging, neglect and germs,” Raymond explains. “Whereas white teeth show that you’re appropriately put together, and that you take care of yourself.”
Breath also plays a large role in how confident you feel. “Because breath is what we take in and give out, having foul breath can rub off on your character—you may think you’re a foul person if you have foul breath,” Raymond says. She adds that breath plays a vital role in the development of familial and intimate relationships, too. “As a child, if your dad kisses you with alcohol on his breath, it might show you that he doesn’t care.” It says, in other words, that he cares more about pounding beers than sparing your nose from his nostril-burning mouth odour.
The state of our mouths translate to real-life worries, too: A recent survey found that 53 percent of people worry that their teeth could hamper their ability to find a partner, and 46 percent worry their teeth could hurt their chances of finding a new job.
None of this means you have to rush off to the dentist to feel better about yourself, though. “Grooming is an important part of feeling confident, but it’s temporary,” Raymond explains. “Confidence is more about your belief in yourself than whether or not you have a clean mouth.”