New research has found that orthodontic treatment before the age of 18 years improves oral health-related quality of life, with the most improvement being in emotional and social wellbeing.

The paper, co-authored by Professor Philip Benson with colleagues Hanieh Javidi and Mario Vettore, is based on a systematic review and meta-analysis of studies using patient reported outcomes before and after orthodontic treatment.

The findings are highly significant for the orthodontic specialty, because, until now, there has been little evidence that orthodontic treatment improves oral health-related quality of life.

Professor Benson, the British Orthodontic Society director of research, said: ‘As practising orthodontists we are constantly being told by our patients that they are pleased they had their teeth straightened and that they are no longer embarrassed to smile or to be photographed. We wanted to find all the research that has tried to measure this effect with young people.

‘We did a thorough search and found 13 studies that were relevant. Four of these studies used similar questionnaires to measure what young people thought about their teeth and how their dental appearance affects their life, before and after orthodontic treatment. We combined the data from these four studies to show that the improvement was measurable and moderately large in the areas of emotional and social wellbeing.’

Professor Benson added that the overall number of young people included in the research was relatively small so further research was needed. Hanieh Javidi has just been awarded the 2017 joint Faculty of Dental Surgery Royal College of Surgeons (Eng) – British Orthodontic Society Research Fellowship and her PhD research project will investigate oral health-related quality of life in the under 18 age group further.

The research, undertaken at the University of Sheffield School of Clinical Dentistry, was published in the American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics.