If the eyes are the window to the soul, then the smile must be the portal into the mind. Without you ever meaning to, the upturned corners of your mouth can tell onlookers a whole lot about what you're feeling.
Cheeky? Smug? Yes, we can tell. Just like confidence, the sentiments end up written all over your face.
A leading Sydney celebrity dentist says new technology is making a career-enhancing smile easier for everyone to achieve.
“A good, natural-looking smile makes you look confident, relaxed, professional and happy,” explains Dr David Carr, who appeared on Channel 7's 10 Years Younger in 10 Days and has worked on Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett.
“I have more and more businessmen coming in wanting to improve their smiles in order to boost their career. In this day and age when image is everything, you don't look like a winner unless you've got a good smile.”
A UK study released in April - by toothbrush manufacturer Oral B - claims that respondents believed those with white teeth earn £10,000 ($16,780) more than those with stained teeth, and that a good smile also doubles the perception of private schooling or university education.
This was the case for James (not his real name), an insurance salesman who was struggling to become the top salesperson in the state when his girlfriend persuaded him to see Carr. He had always been too embarrassed to smile with an open mouth because of his crooked teeth, and she believed this was holding him back.
“A few months after we fixed his smile he came in with a big bottle of champagne, Carr says. “He hadn't only become the top salesperson – he'd doubled his sales income.”
However, while Carr has plenty of success stories to share, something that holds people back from getting cosmetic dentist work is the fear of looking like a daytime soap star.
But gone are the days of the 1990s-style blinding white, big-toothed smile. Carr maintains that, just like cosmetic surgery, good dental work should look natural. New techniques make the work less invasive and help people get a more relaxed look.
Another way to improve his clients' smiles has nothing to do with teeth. “If people have an overly gummy smile I can put a bit of Botox at the base of the nose so the lip doesn't go up so high – it makes a huge difference,” he says.
He also sees a lot of stressed executives who grind their teeth, and can fix the problem by injecting some muscle relaxant.
An increasingly popular technique for straightening teeth is Invisalign, a clear mouthguard that acts as invisible braces. “The best thing is it's gradual, it can take 12 or 18 months so people don't notice you've had your teeth done,” Carr says.
If you're concerned about how you'll look afterwards, new software allows patients to see images of how their teeth will look after their procedure and helps them customise their procedures.
Melbourne-based dentist Dr Helen Voronina explains veneers have also come a long way. They used to involve filing down a tooth before covering it, but today's porcelain veneers don't require the tooth to be damaged.
“It creates a brand new smile by simply putting porcelain over the surface of your old tooth,” she explains. And it's a lot less painful.
But this kind of work doesn't come cheap. “The costs vary, but for good quality porcelain veneers you're looking at $1200 to $2000 per veneer, which last around 20-40 years,” Voronina says.
So is it worth it? Life coach Sally-Anne Blanshard of Nourish Coaching agrees that a natural, confident smile is important, but believes there's more to a first impression than perfect teeth.
“A smile is also about your eyes and your whole face lighting up with confidence,” she says.
While she concurs that good dentistry can help improve your appearance and air of success, she believes good posture and grooming, and having confidence in yourself, is just as important.
“Once you have that inner confidence, you can use your smile as an accessory. And if you want to improve it, that's an added benefit.”