Our daily lives are filled with so much hustle and bustle. And we are constantly seeking out happiness and fulfillment.

But did you know that we can make our days brighter just by smiling?

There’s a lot to be said of smiling. Or, if you want to get technical about it, flexing your zygomatic major muscle.

Musicians have dedicated songs to the act, authors have written books about it, and some say you’re never fully dressed without one.

Smiling is also the most obvious and universal way to express happiness. But there’s a lot more to it. Research shows that smiling is actually good for your self-esteem.

Below, we give you the rundown of how a healthy smile builds self-esteem.

And, if you’re self-conscious of your not-so-pearly whites or just want to improve them, we’ve got you covered, too. Find out the best tips for getting a healthy smile, after the jump:

Breaking Down the Research

Self-esteem is directly related to self-confidence. And there are many factors to help promote this. Below are some examples.

1. Smiling makes us healthier.

According to Ron Gutman, author of the book Smile: The Astonishing Powers of a Simple Act, smiling can actually make us healthier beings.

Not only does smiling help reduce levels of stress-enhancing hormones such as cortisol, adrenaline, and dopamine. It also helps to increase mood-enhancing hormones like endorphins and reduces blood pressure.

2. Smiling makes us happier.

We know that smiling expresses happiness, but it works both ways. Even if you’re not happy, the physical act of smiling can make you genuinely happier.

This discovery was first made by the German psychologist Fritz Strack in a 1988 study. He proved that facial movements have a direct effect on movements of the mind.

To test this, Strack asked subjects to hold a pencil in one of three ways.

The first group held the pencil widthwise between their teeth, which naturally forced them to smile.

The second group held the pencil lengthwise between their teeth, forcing a slight frown.

The control group then placed the pencil in their hand while watching cartoons, rating how funny they thought the content was.

The research showed that the first group, the ones who “smiled,” rated the funniness of the cartoons much higher than the second group, the ones who “frowned.”

3. A healthy smile makes us feel better about ourselves.

When we’re happy, healthy, and positive, we generally feel better about ourselves and have higher self-esteem.

However, due to insecurities, not everyone is comfortable with smiling. Ever notice that one friend who always tries to avoid smiling in photos? Who puts their hand over their mouth when they laugh?

Certain types of oral conditions can limit intimacy, verbal and nonverbal communication, and social interaction.

Even further, low self-esteem can lead to anxiety or depression.

Luckily, it’s easier to get back on track with a healthy smile than you might think.

So whether you’ve stopped taking proper care of your chompers or have naturally less-than-stellar teeth, make sure to follow the steps below.

If you stick to the basic maintenance tips of a healthy smile, you’ll be beaming in no time. And because of it, you’ll probably notice an extra spring in your step.

“Say Cheese!” — 4 Tips for a Healthy Smile

You may have heard some of these tips before, but they’re worth repeating. Below are the best foundational things you can do for a healthy smile.

The best part? They’re timeless and they actually work.

1. Brush at least twice a day.

One in four adults admits to brushing less than twice a day. One in ten says it’s because they forget to brush.

But the stakes for this forgetfulness is high.

Brushing only once per day raises your chances of cavities or decaying teeth. In fact, people who don’t brush twice a day are 33% more likely to develop tooth decay.

And this doesn’t just go for adults. Cavities are the No. 1 cause of tooth loss in children.

If you’re not sure where you rank on the brushing game, take this quiz to find out.

2. Floss at least once a day.

You might have seen the recent headlines stating that flossing isn’t as necessary as we once thought.

Highly credible sources like The New York Times and the Associated Press even reported on it.

But even though there isn’t a lot of hard evidence out there to support claims for or against flossing, dentists still strongly recommend it. (There are actually lots of flossing myths out there.)

Since it takes two minutes at most, why chance it?

Flossing reportedly has multiple health benefits.

For one, it helps remove plaque that, if gone untreated, can harden into tartar.

It also might help prevent gum disease and cavities.

If you’re wondering whether you should floss before or after you brush, it’s really up to you.

According to a 2015 study, 53% of respondents said they prefer to brush before they floss, while 47% prefer to floss before brushing.

Again, because children are susceptible to cavities, it’s important to floss your child’s teeth as soon as they have two teeth that touch.

Most children don’t have the ability to floss thoroughly on their own until they reach the age of about 10.

3. Maintain a healthy diet.

Many people rely on coffee, tea, or both to get them through the day.

Unfortunately, if you’re looking to naturally whiten your teeth, food and drink that stain (including soda) have got to go.

And adding more cream to your cuppa joe isn’t going to cut it. These drinks stain teeth because they easily get stuck in the teeny ridges of your tooth enamel.

For food, try snacking on healthy options like celery, apples, or carrots. These crunchy foods can help get rid of loose food and debris.

There are a list of other foods that reportedly whiten teeth naturally. Included on the list are strawberries, broccoli, yogurt, and onions. (Hey, we said whitening, not fresh breath!)

4. Schedule regular appointments with your dentist.

It’s important to visit the dentist for a cleaning twice a year, once every six months.

Even if you’re a brushing, flossing, and mouth-washing ninja, regular visits to the dentist are necessary.

Most people hate going to the dentist, some even fear it, while others love it. Our guess is that this too could be connected with self-esteem as it relates to your smile.

But did you know that after a cleaning, plaque begins to rebuild as soon as 24 to 48 hours afterward?

This is why the six-month period is so important. Because regular brushing doesn’t remove plaque that calcifies. Only the special tools a hygienist uses will remove it successfully.

Following these tips will ensure a healthy smile over time. The key is to stick with it.

Good luck, and keep smiling!