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Does smiling with teeth make you more attractive?

Smiling is a universal sign of happiness, positivity, and approachability. But when it comes to attraction, does flashing your pearly whites in a full-toothed grin make you more appealing to others compared to a closed-mouth smile? Research suggests the answer is yes – with some caveats.

The science behind smiling and attraction

There are several scientific reasons why smiling with teeth is generally perceived as more attractive:

  • It’s a sign of health and good genes. Straight, white teeth are associated with good health and hygiene. From an evolutionary perspective, visible teeth may signal to potential mates that you have “good genes” and would make a healthy reproductive partner.
  • It looks more genuine. A mouth-closed “polite smile” can seem insincere at times. Exposing teeth displays the smile’s authenticity and suggests you’re experiencing true joy.
  • It’s linked to confidence. A bold, toothy smile conveys self-assurance. Various studies have found confidence is universally considered attractive.
  • It communicates warmth. A toothy smile appears friendly and approachable. Research links smiling with increased perceptions of trustworthiness.
  • It’s associated with laughter. Laughter engages others and facilitates bonding between people. Smiling with teeth shows you’re prone to laughter and humor.

In short, a toothy smile taps into many desirable traits like health, authenticity, confidence, affability, and playfulness. This collective signal of positive attributes is ultimately what makes it appealing.

Studies comparing smiles

Various studies have directly tested how people perceive smiles with teeth versus closed-mouth smiles:

  • A 2016 study in the journal Emotion examined different types of smiling in photos of women. Participants rated photos of women smiling with teeth as more attractive than closed-mouth smiles.
  • A 2012 study in the Journal of Nonverbal Behavior looked at perceptions of smiles in customer service agents. Customers rated agents as more attractive when they displayed toothy smiles versus closed-mouth smiles.
  • A 2008 study in Cognition and Emotion showed men photos of women smiling with varying intensities. Men rated women as most attractive when exhibiting medium-intensity smiles with teeth exposed.

Overall, research clearly indicates that smiles showing teeth are judged as more attractive compared to closed-lip smiles, when all other factors are constant.

When are closed-mouth smiles more attractive?

While smiling with teeth has advantages, closed-mouth smiles may be more attractive in certain contexts:

  • In professional settings. A closed-mouth smile can project poise and refinement, which is favorable in formal work environments.
  • In some cultures. In certain Asian, African, and South American cultures, smiling with teeth is avoided and closed-mouth smiles are preferred.
  • When teeth are flawed. Crooked, yellowed, or missing teeth can make a closed-mouth smile more attractive for some.
  • In low intensity smiles. At low intensities, closed-mouth smiles may seem more natural and subtle.

So while toothy smiles generally convey higher attractiveness, closed-mouth smiles also have a place depending on cultural norms, professional contexts, dental flaws, and personal preference.

Tips for an attractive smile

If you want to leverage the power of your smile, here are some research-backed tips:

  • Show your upper teeth. Images focusing just on the upper teeth receive higher attractiveness ratings than full-toothed smiles. The upper teeth and smile line are most important.
  • Don’t overdo it. Ultra wide smiles decrease attractiveness. Keep it natural with a relaxed, medium-intensity smile.
  • Slow it down. Slowly building up your smile is more alluring than a quick flash. Allow your smile to unfold gradually.
  • Smile with your eyes. Engaging your whole face with smile crinkles around the eyes boosts appeal.
  • Consider lipstick. Colored lips draw attention to your smile. Bright red lipstick enhances femininity.


Evidence clearly shows that smiling with teeth is judged as more attractive overall compared to closed-mouth smiles. Toothy smiles demonstrate health, authenticity, confidence, warmth, and humor. However, closed-mouth smiles have their place too depending on context, culture, dental issues, and personal choice. If you want to enhance your attractiveness, focus on smiling gently with your upper teeth exposed and engaging your entire face.