Dental braces do not improve self-esteem
Dental braces might straighten misaligned teeth, but are unlikely to improve psychological well-being.
Researchers from the University Dental Hospital of Manchester followed more than 300 British children into adulthood for over 20 years. They found that those had corrected their imperfect smiles corrected with braces were not happier or psychologically healthier than their peers who went without braces. Self-esteem in adulthood was far more dependent on quality of life, and similar factors than on orthodontics.
This runs contrary to the widespread belief among dentists that orthodontic treatment improves psychological well-being, for which there is very little evidence.
In 1981, the study enrolled 1,018 children between 11 and 12 years old who had their dental health and psychological well-being evaluated. The children's teeth were examined, but the researchers made no recommendations on whether they should get braces. Twenty years later, the researchers were able to re-evaluate 337 of the original participants.
They found that the subjects, who had braces as children, did not appear to enjoy greater mental health. There was also no evidence that children who failed to have their teeth fixed suffered any long-term psychological damage. When it came to self-esteem, it was found that study participants' teeth made little difference. General satisfaction with life, emotional well-being and levels of depression and anxiety were much more important to their self-esteem.
Braces can improve a person's smile, and that may make a difference in teenagers' feelings of self-worth in the short-term. However, by adulthood other psychological and social factors are of greater significance for the maintenance of general health and psychological well-being.
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