Why do we have dimples?


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Smiles are one of the most beautiful things our body can do. In 1996, when the band Boyzone harmonised by singing this line – “Smile an everlasting smile a smile could bring you near to me”, it was not just a way to sway the avid pop music listeners, but to highlight the ability of our mouths to conform in way that does not only express our joy and happiness, but spreads these emotions across the room.

Smiles are undoubtedly one of the most attractive quality about an individual, but there are different kinds of smiles too – the tight-lipped one, the open-lipped one and of course, the dimpled one. It is very normal for people to glorify a dimpled smile, since there is something inherently positive about it. If you are one of the people envious of a person with dimples, remember that dimples are considered a BIRTH DEFECT.

All birth defects needn’t be harming the functioning of a person, instead dimples are considered structural defects in specific areas of the skin. Dimples are not just unique to the cheeks, but to the chin and lower back as well. Although one might assume that dimples on these separate parts of the body refer to the fact that there are different kinds of dimples, it is not true.


What is a dimple?

A dimple is a natural indentation observed mainly on the cheek(s) of a person, and sometimes the lower back and chin. Only 20% of the world’s population possess a single or double dimple, but there is no assurance of them not disappearing over time.

A dimple on the cheeks usually appears while smiling, but those on the chin are observed as a small linear dent, present during mostly all facial expressions. In case of the cheeks, there are two kinds of dimples – bilateral (i.e., present on both sides of the cheeks) and unilateral (i.e., present on one side of the cheek, although there is a confusion in the scientific community about which cheek it usually is observed on).


The morphology (appearance) of a dimple is specific to the bone structure of the face, fat content and the muscle content of the location of the dimple. Some people have long dimples, extending from under their cheekbones to close to the sides of their mouth, while others have a small, circular appearance in the centre of the cheeks. Since every facial structure is different, it is difficult to narrow down the mechanism of the development of a dimple, but there is one largely accepted “defect” which put a reason for the occurrence of a dimple.


What causes a dimple to develop?

Dimples occur on a kind of tissue called the MOBILE TISSUE, and can be narrowed down to defect in the development of a muscle called the ZYGOMATICUS MAJOR, present in the cheeks, chin and lower back. While a normal zygomaticus major tissue will be single layered, it is double-layed or bifid in case of people with dimples. When one smiles, the cheeks are ‘pushed back’, causing the muscle to contract, thereby exhibiting its double layering. It is due to this fact that dimples are seen, especially in case of smiling.

Zygomaticus Major muscle (in red)

Scientists have tried to link dimples to genetics – that is, the study of passage of traits from parents to the children. Since the development of our entire body boils down to our GENES, it is believed that the defect in the muscle has been passed to people from their parents. Genes are of two basic types – dominant and recessive. DOMINANT, as the word suggests, is one that will be observed in all the children, while the RECESSIVE will only be observed in a few. It is thought that dimples are the result of a dominant gene, which means if any of your parent has dimples, you will have them too.

There is a flip side to this theory as well. As mentioned before, dimples can disappear over time. This brings us to the question of how does this so-called defect in the zygomaticus major repair itself and start exhibiting a regular morphology. This proves the TRANSIENT nature of dimples, referring to their appearance and disappearance without a suitable cause. If one’s dimples are not lost over time, they’re called permanent dimples.


Can dimples be caused?

While this question sounds similar to the one posed before, it may be considered its opposite. Here we refer to the question of whether a person can induce dimples via a variety of methods. There have been instances of people, especially women of certain cultures, wearing a clamp-like structure on their cheeks to get dimples. This has proved to be futile since an external force cannot cause the muscle in question, zygomaticus major, to change its structure.

Old-age techniques to induce dimples

A popular and more effective technique is a type of plastic surgery called a dimpleplasty, with the aim of ‘creating’ dimples. It employs surgical tools and techniques to physically induce the structural change of the muscle, thereby creating dimples. This is a popular practice in film industries in order to conform to the belief of a dimpled smile indicating youthfulness and innocence.

Many cultures consider dimples as a sign of fortune or good luck, although there is no scientific basis to this occurrence. Yet, dimples are an attractive quality, especially because of their rare nature and all the personality traits believed to be associated with it. Yet, there is no assurance of the permanence of a dimple. A person who has lived half their life without dimples can find them developing one day – it is still possible. Having said this, it is a purely superficial characteristics, owing nothing to the personality or lifestyle of a person. It should be treated as something independent of a person’s individuality and nothing fruitful can come out of remaining envious of a person possessing the trait.

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