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We have all heard that white and evenly spaced teeth are better-looking, but did you know that we are naturally programmed to value that in a mate?

A recent study has shown that teeth are the human equivalent of a peacock’s tail. Humans subconsciously see teeth as a sign of health, and it might be a genetic quality designed to help us pick out a partner.

During the study, researchers from the universities of Leeds and Central Lancashire took photos of models and then digitally adjusted the colors and spaces between the teeth. They changed the teeth colors to yellowish brown, healthy white, and startling white—a shade which can only be achieved through bleaching.

The photos were then showed to 150 young women and men. The participants had to say how attractive the models were to them. The yellow teeth and widely spaced teeth were not attractive. The brilliant white smiles were no more attractive to the participants than a healthy white smile.

It was also discovered that when women look at the pictures of other females’ teeth they are comparing themselves with each other, like they are competing for a mate.

Dr. Hendrie of the study believes that women’s teeth are used to judge a woman’s age to show her reproductive value—the yellower her teeth, the older she probably is, and the less likely to be able to have children. This may be why women smile more than men and wear lipstick—to subconsciously better highlight their teeth in order to get a mate.

More research needs to be done, but these findings should remind you the value of keeping your teeth white and beautiful. If you are embarrassed by your yellowing teeth, you should contact the Lakeway Center for Cosmetic and Family Dentistry today to get a smile you are proud to show off.