What do you think when I say the word “teeth” or “mouth”? I think of the mouth as a gateway to one’s soul, an outlet for the brilliant ideas, the passage for wonderful tastes. The teeth in that context are the fortress to all that greatness and the guardians of the temple. What is it about a beautiful “Duchenne smile”- a full smile that involves facial muscles around the eyes and showing teeth – that attracts us so much? This is how my interest in both dentistry and psychology led me to the answer.
My decision to pursue the field of dentistry is not one that I reached over night; rather it is the result of my experiences through education, internships, various community volunteer opportunities, and current career goals. At the age of sixteen, a simple figure skating accident a month before my world competition landed me in the doctor’s office to receive an occlusion for my badly broken jaw. In addition to pain, discomfort, and lifestyle restrictions, I was injured psychologically. I felt awkward and indifferent. During the recovery time I could not move my jaw, could not speak, smile or make any type of verbal connection with others. As a result of my limitations, I saw myself disconnected from the outside world. That made me realize how important a simple smile could be in someone’s social life, especially a smile with beautiful teeth. In addition to the physical impact, the thought of not being able to compete, after devoting two years of my life practicing everyday, was taking a great toll on me. My dentist made a huge impact on my life as he ever so patiently and passionately worked with me to heal my jaw as well as healing my soul by giving me back my smile. He not only helped me smile again, but also helped me make the most significant discovery about myself: my passion for making a positive contribution in the lives of others. To me, a smile is beyond a synchronous act of a few facial muscles but it is a display of my inner peace, energy and happiness and I would love to devote my life to helping others can enjoy their big beautiful smiles. After all according to Ekman’s research in 1990, even adopting a Duchene smile can produce changes in the brain activity that corresponded with happier mood. So keep smiling and keep your life happy. I hope someday I can help hundreds of people to achieve this goal to live a happier life.
UCLA School of Dentistry, Class of 2020
Favorite place to vacation: Masuleh, Iran