Kids with prominent teeth are victims of bullying

One in eight adolescents with prominent, or irregular shaped teeth have experienced bullying.

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This has had a negative impact on their self-esteem and quality of their oral health, according to a report published in the latest issue of the British Dental Journal (BDJ).

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The authors, hospital-based orthodontic specialists, found that the children, aged between 10 and 14 years, were at an increased risk of being teased or bullied by their peers if they had certain dental features: these included maxillary overcrowding; a cleft lip, with or without a cleft palate; an overjet and a deep overbite (ie prominent teeth).

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The specialists also expressed concern that psychosocial factors are not considered when assessing a child’s need for orthodontic treatment, although they acknowledged that the relationship between the shape of teeth, self-esteem and bullying is a complex one.

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‘Currently the severity and need for orthodontic treatment within the UK is judged on occlusal [bite] and aesthetic impairment without consideration of psychosocial factors,’ warn the authors of the BDJ report.

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Commenting on the report’s findings, the British Dental Association’s Scientific Adviser, Professor Damien Walmsley, said: ‘As studies show that having well-aligned teeth can influence our ability to make friends and progress in our careers, it’s not surprising that young children pick up on society’s ideal of what is perceived to be attractive early on.

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‘Because prominent or irregular shaped teeth can affect a child’s self-esteem, or make them the subject of teasing or bullying at school, it’s important that these factors are taken into account when referrals for orthodontic treatment are considered.’

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* Bullying in schoolchildren – its relationship to dental appearance and psychosocial implications: an update for general dental practitioners, by J Seehra, JT Newton, and AT DiBiase, was published in the British Dental Journal, volume 210, No 9, May 14, 2011.

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