Think the way your teeth look doesn’t really matter? Survey says: think again.
Without saying a word, your mouth is sending messages to everyone you meet. According to the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO), people often make snap judgments about individuals based solely on the condition of their teeth.
“This phenomenon was documented more than 25 years ago,” says Dr. Don Joondeph, president of the American Association of Orthodontists, referring to an eye-opening study in which photos of young smiling individuals were altered to show varying orthodontic problems and then reviewed by focus groups.
“When the focus groups looked at the altered photos they used unflattering terms such as ‘unattractive’ and ‘aggressive’ to describe the individuals,” says Dr. Joondeph. “However, when groups saw photos of the same individuals with a healthy, beautiful smile, they were more likely to view the individuals as ‘intelligent,’ ‘attractive’ and ‘a friend I’d like to have.’”
Dr. Joondeph believes that the original study, which was published in 1981, is even more applicable in today’s image-obsessed world. “More than ever, young people and adults want to be perceived as healthy, attractive and appealing to their peers and others.”
To obtain optimal oral health and achieve a healthy, beautiful smile, the AAO recommends a team approach. “In addition to seeing a dentist for regular check-ups and cleaning, patients also should see an orthodontist to ensure that any underlying orthodontic problem is not overlooked,” says Dr. Joondeph. “An orthodontic consultation is especially important for children or for anyone who is considering a cosmetic dental procedure.”
For children, an orthodontic check-up no later than age seven can identify potential problems and ensure that any future treatment is timed appropriately. For adults, an orthodontic consult may reveal that cosmetic dentistry is unnecessary. “Patients may be pleasantly surprised to learn that their unattractive teeth are generally healthy, just misaligned,” says Dr. Joondeph.
In regards to the study, Dr. Joondeph believes that the first thing that people notice about his young and adult patients is obvious: “The confidence and sense of self-esteem that comes with their healthy, beautiful smiles is unmistakable to anyone they meet.”
For more information about orthodontics or to find AAO members, visit the online “Find an Orthodontist” service at www.braces.org, or call the AAO’s toll-free information line at 1-800-STRAIGHT (1-800-787-2444).
Who is an orthodontist? An orthodontist specializes in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of dental and facial irregularities. Orthodontists receive an additional two-to-three years of specialized education beyond dental school to learn the proper way to align and straighten teeth. Only orthodontists are eligible for membership in the AAO.
Are cosmetic procedures ever appropriate? Certainly there is a place for cosmetic enhancements. After the orthodontist has moved teeth into their ideal positions, the patient’s dentist can improve the appearance of teeth that are worn down, badly formed, cracked, chipped or discolored. When teeth are properly positioned through orthodontic treatment, veneers or bonding can be easier to place, look better and may be easier to maintain.
About the American Association of Orthodontists: The AAO comprises 15,000 members in the United States, Canada and abroad. Founded in 1900, the AAO supports research and education leading to quality patient care and promotes increased public awareness of the need for and benefits of orthodontic treatment. Orthodontists are uniquely qualified to correct improperly aligned teeth and jaws. They are specialists in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of dental and facial irregularities. The American Dental Association requires orthodontists to have at least two academic years of advanced specialty training in orthodontics in an accredited program, after graduation from dental school.