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Research has proven that a bright & straight-toothed smile can improve a person’s quality of life by boosting their self-esteem. Through dental procedures, teeth whitening and orthodontics, we have seen these positive results firsthand. Edmonton’s Child Magazine reports on a study that links teeth with bullying. Do you believe your child needs orthodontics? If so, let’s discuss this on your next visit.

A new study was published in the December 2013 issue of the American Journal of Orthodontics stating that unattractive teeth in 11-12-year-olds may be linked to bullying. The study, which was conducted among sixth-grade students, reveals a large percentage of children experienced bullying as a result of dental or facial appearance. Teeth were the number one targeted physical feature to increase a child’s chance of being bullied, followed by the child’s strength and weight.

A panel of 12 orthodontists agreed with the findings of the study and reported that they have treated many young patients who were teased and even bullied because of their teeth.

According to the study, the four most commonly reported facial features targeted by bullies were spaces between the teeth, missing teeth, the shape or colour of the teeth and prominent or protruding upper front teeth.

The purpose of the study was to investigate the experience of bullying among a sample of school children. They then looked at the effect of bullying on school attendance and the perceived school performance. They also looked at the general physical and facial features of the children and how they related to bullying.

In the study, nearly half of the students reported being bullied. Teeth were identified as the number one problem by the students they surveyed, and 50 per cent of the victims also recognized teeth as a cause of bullying. Gender was not a contributing factor.

Orthodontists have long been aware of the relationship between serious dental problems and self-esteem, no matter the age of the patient. Dr Gayle Glenn, president of the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) states that a person’s smile is very important in communication and personal relationships. Teeth are very noticeable, so when they are poorly aligned, this can be an easy target for teasing or bullying. Parents will often tell the doctor that their child is being “teased” about the appearance of his/her teeth.

Members of the AAO panel have found that early orthodontic treatment of a child being bullied can have a major beneficial psychological effect. According to Dr. Michael Ragan, one of the most probable overlooked areas of research in orthodontics today is the psychological effects on a child with severe crowding and overbite. Early treatment is one of the most beneficial things for a young child’s self-esteem.

It has been stated that it is common to see a patient’s self-esteem and self-confidence improve while the patient is in orthodontic treatment and even more when their braces are removed after treatment is completed.

Dr. Gayle Glenn states that not all children are candidates for “early orthodontic treatment” as sometimes the problem is part of the normal process of tooth eruption. Reassurance is often helpful in these cases. The Canadian Association of Orthodontists recommends that children have a check-up by an orthodontist no later than age 7 to determine if and when orthodontic treatment will be needed.