Amid April showers or the lack of it, tax woes and the harsh reality that all New Year’s resolutions have been for naught, it is quite fitting for April to be designated as National Humor Month. Any month that’s ushered in with “Happy Fool’s Day” is the best candidate for a celebration of lighthearted exchanges, good-natured pranks and many ways to laugh. It is not a marked with a shopping extravaganza as other holidays tend to be because laughter, after all, comes free. The event was founded in 1976 by Larry Wilde, a comedian, writer and life coach. Funnyman Wilde sought to promote greater awareness of the therapeutic potential of laughter in improving morale, communication skills and overall health and quality of life. After 41 years, this month-long celebration is still going strong as even more science-backed research has shown the restorative value of humor in winning at life.

What it Takes to Laugh

Laughter may be audible or a quiet expression of merriment accompanied with a distinctive feeling of pleasure and joy. It is a brain-regulated reaction, and strong laughter may bring on tears and some muscle pain in certain areas. The onset may be preceded with a smile, displaying your teeth, which is a positive signal in social interactions. Laughter is a reaction to physical, visual and verbal stimuli, but it is also feedback, the effect of which may be contagious. Many TV shows still use recorded laugh tracks to encourage positive audience feedback.

Physiological Effects of Humor

It has been said that it takes fewer muscles to 
smile than it does to frown. But putting energy conservation aside, finding your funny bone can have an immediate impact on your mindset and attitude. Much like physical exercise, research has shown that guffaws large and small can boost the heart rate and increase blood flow to improve
circulation and oxygen delivery to the tissues. Facial muscles tend to stretch and calories are burned in the process. Even a simple smile can alter your mood and that of the people around you. Try baring your teeth in a cutesy way on that grumpy co-worker or the frazzled barista, and see what you get in return.

Laughter reduces cortisol levels. Cortisol is a hormone produced as a reaction to stressful conditions. Laughter increases the production of endorphins, which is a hormone involved in pain reduction. It has also been shown to increase T-cell production, proteins involved in building immunity and antibodies.

Bonus Effects

A deep-seated belly laugh can help relieve physical tension, relaxing tense muscles while relieving emotional stress in the process. This muscle-relaxation technique can have an impact on your body for up to 45 minutes with minimum sweating involved. Naturally, increasing blood flow and the circulation efficiency can boost cardiovascular health. Smiles, grins and laughter showcase your teeth and enviable dental work. Laughter is a valuable stress-management technique that can help everyone focus while building camaraderie and enhancing team effort.

Laughter and Fun by the Numbers

A survey conducted by SKOUT show that just about everyone understands the value of humor in life. Survey results showed that 75 percent of respondents consider themselves funny, and 94 percent profess that they like making people laugh. Those who confess to being practical jokers have the most close friends while those who favor self-deprecating or sarcastic wit have fewer friends. If you’re willing to change your zip code to incorporate more laughter in your life, Houston, Los Angeles and Atlanta are the places to go because this is where 98 to 100 percent of survey respondents indicated that they want you to have a good time.

Laughter may come easily for you, so you tend to take it for granted. Take this special talent, and spread the gift to those you encounter during National Humor Month and every day for the rest of your life.

It all started with a call to a Transylvania outreach program for reformed vampires…

A little over two years ago, my then nine year old son, Theo, had to get two teeth pulled, his “canines”, or fangs as they say in the underworld. These were baby teeth that needed to be removed because his adult teeth coming in were looking impacted.

Our dentist wanted to “clear the decks” by pulling these teeth so the permanent teeth had more room to come in properly. This simple extraction would hopefully avoid a more complicated set of procedures later.

My son, having first-hand knowledge of my wife’s many dental phobias, was very skeptical of anything the dentist had to say. I’m a firm believer in the power of positive thinking, and I didn’t want Theo’s negative vibes to potentially derail his recovery. So, how could I get a nine year old to be interested in having two teeth pulled?

Tell him his sacrifice will save the life of a vampire.

What? You heard me. SAVE THE LIFE OF A VAMPIRE. Enter Hector, an undead blood sucker looking to take his life in a new direction. (In truth, it was my buddy Tim from upstate New York, but he did a great vampire impersonation and that was all I needed.)

Which brings us back to where we started, a call to a Transylvania outreach program for reformed vampires. We made the call and we were immediately connected to Hector, a vampire from Brussels (turned in the early 1800s) who had relocated to Transylvania. Tired of being chased by angry crowds with pitchforks, Hector had recently gone through the de-fanging process and was trying to blend in with the human world.

Theo had an instant bond his new undead buddy. Turns out, Hector was not a big fan of dentists either. Having your blood sucking fangs yanked is a frightening proposition, and — unlike my son’s baby teeth — vampire teeth don’t come back.

Hector’s recent shift from denizen of the night to dishwasher at an all-night diner had gone very smoothly. He was now hoping to move up the corporate ladder and become a waiter. Unfortunately, he was too shy to work the tables with huge gaps in his smile. Hector thought it was a dead (no pun intended) give-away to be missing his canines in this part of the world. He was sure the locals would figure out his real back story and start chasing him around with pitchforks yet again.

“I don’t vant to bite your necks anymore…”

Enter my son’s teeth. Over the next two weeks, Hector and Theo swapped stories, a friendship bloomed, and promises of shiny new teeth were made.

Hector, the vampire

My name is Hector, and I vill be your vaiter this evening.

On a crisp Monday morning, Theo and I went to the dentist carrying three things: The hopes and dreams of a reformed vampire, a sterilized specimen jar from the biology lab, and a well-padded shipping envelope. The extractions were done in an easy half hour and within another twenty minutes the teeth were packed in the jar, sealed in the envelope, and en route to Transylvania via our local post office.

We heard back from Hector a week later. The transplant had been a success and, new smile intact, he was starting his first shift as a waiter that very evening. He couldn’t send us a selfie for obvious “vampires don’t show up on film” reasons, but he assured Theo that the teeth looked awesome and sent a little sketch he did of himself.

It’s two years later and my son’s adult canines have worked their way into proper positions in his ever-so-sweet smile. We will always be thankful to Hector for helping Theo find the strength to “sacrifice” his own smile to save another’s.

We’re hoping to one day make the journey to Transylvania to see Hector, but for now, the three-by-five self-portrait of our undead friend will have to do.

Shawn PatrickThe Dental Dad is written by Shawn Patrick, General Manager of DentalInsurance.com. Shawn lives in Los Angeles with his lovely wife, 2 sons, Mac the dog, and three fish who shall remain nameless.

Dental insurance helps consumers address oral health concerns.

Dental insurance helps address problems that can come out of nowhere, like a bolt from the blue.

Share a smile with us! Follow us on Twitterlike us on Facebook, or add us to Google+.