Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton greets supporters during a Get Out the Vote rally at World Cafe Live at the Queen on April 25 in Wilmington, Del. Her smile is getting quite a bit of attention from male pundits who say she is either smiling too much or not enough. JUSTIN SULLIVAN / GETTY IMAGES
Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Life with Gracie: What is it about Hillary Clinton’s smile?

It’s hard to believe that we’ve come to this, but Hillary Clinton’s pearly whites were again a major topic of discussion in the wake of last week’s presidential debate.

Did she smile enough? Did she smile too much? Should she have been smiling at all?

You could argue Hillary’s best moments came when she purposely remained quiet, smiled, and allowed Donald Trump all the time he needed to, well, unleash. Incredibly, it was Hillary Clinton’s smiling that some found to be the most offensive.

In the hours after the debate, hundreds of people retweeted this from political pundit David Frum: “Who told Hillary Clinton to keep smiling like she’s at her granddaughter’s birthday party?”

Nearly 600 people liked the tweet.

Same for this one from one Richard Grenell, former Bush spokesman for the United Nations: “Hillary’s condescending smile is NOT likeable,” which scored 137 retweets and 253 likes.

Women have been subjected to this kind of trivial scrutiny since time eternal. If we don’t smile enough, we’re cold. If we smile too much, we’re condescending.

Of course, there was none of that after Tuesday night’s vice presidential debate between Mike Pence and Tim Kaine. There’s a story here but it has little to do with personality or even gender. Every time we smile, doctors say, we throw a little feel-good party in our brain.

It lowers our stress and anxiety level. It strengthens our immune systems. And, yes, we’re more attractive, so it goes without saying Clinton was doing herself a favor.

The Twittersphere, though, got me to thinking about whether any of this, well, really matters.

Dr. Dionne Colbert, clinical partner with the Great Expressions Dental Centers at Eagles Landing in Stockbridge, said yes and no.

Lots of people, she said, have smile makeovers to improve the attractiveness of their teeth and to feel better about themselves. Been there, done that. I was 28 when I could finally afford to straighten my teeth and it couldn’t have come too soon.

Typically, though, she said, patients are more concerned about the shade of their teeth, failing to realize that teeth come in different shades just like skin color.

“Everybody wants that bright white smile, but the health of the teeth and gum area is what they should be concerned about,” Colbert said. “Bad breath, for instance, might indicate a person has periodontal disease. Oral health impacts overall health.”

Colbert said that one in four Georgians avoid smiling because of poor teeth and gums. Sometimes, that’s due to a lack of insurance. Other times, it’s because insurance plans don’t cover major dental work like crowns, braces or teeth whitening.

“People can be very self-conscious about their teeth,” Colbert said. “When they’re missing teeth or their teeth are discolored or aren’t properly aligned, it’s worse because those are things not covered under a basic dental plan or require higher out-of-pocket expenses.”

As you might expect, just as a great smile bestows many social advantages, a poor smile can be detrimental.

A recent study, Colbert said, found that 84 percent of Americans ages 18 to 50 see an attractive smile as an important feature and one-third said they would not want to be set up on a blind date with someone who had bad teeth. Likewise, 85 percent of people surveyed say a person’s smile is important when meeting someone for the first time. Not surprisingly, nine out of 10 people surveyed also said that people with a good smile are more attractive.

A great smile is also an asset in one’s love life. One-third of 1,000 people, 18 to 50 years old, said they would not be likely to kiss someone who has bad teeth. Bottom line: Bad teeth are also associated with poor hygiene and low self-worth. White teeth, on the other hand, are associated with youth, beauty, health and energy.

Whiter teeth also make you appear smarter.

A study conducted on behalf of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry found that an improved smile will make you appear more successful, interesting and intelligent, in addition to making you appear more attractive.

Even before the debate, Hillary’s smile or lack thereof was getting plenty of attention.

On Sept. 7, Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, tweeted this: “@HillaryClinton was angry + defensive the entire time — no smile and uncomfortable — upset that she was caught wrongly sending our secrets.” More than 2,800 people retweeted Priebus and 4,300 gave him a like.

So whether you think Hillary smiled too much or not enough, a good smile really does matter.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.