Kids With Bad Teeth May Get Bullied More

two young girls laughing behind another girls back

A new study out of Jordan sheds new light on a lesser-known target of bullying: dental features. This research, led by the University of Jordan in collaboration with University College London in the UK, involved tracking 900 sixth graders ages 11-12, and revealed that dental issues were one of the main causes of bullying from other kids. In fact, unattractive teeth were the top reason, surpassing even weight and height as the number one factor in why the kids in the study were bullied.

Over 900 Students Studied

The study, published in The American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics, involved twelve randomly selected schools in Jordan’s capital of Amman. Of the 460 girls and 450 boys involved the study, a little under half said that they had been the subject of bullying sometime in their recent past. The study showed that boys were more likely to be subjected to bullying over girls (55 to 40%). It was also reported that dental and facial attributes, along with other physical features, resulted in more bullying. In the students surveyed, 50% said that their teeth were the largest physical characteristic that resulted in their bullying. Weight was also cited as another main reason of bullying for 31% of the participants, along with hair at 30%, and clothing choice at 26%.

Even Effects Performance in School

Those who had been bullied reported that missing teeth, spaces in teeth, and the shape and color result in a large percentage of them being picked on. 40% of the children also reported that they thought the bullying was detrimentally affecting their performance in classes. An American Association of Orthodontics panel agreed that the outcomes of the Jordanian study are similar to what occurs in the United States and Canada. The president of the American Association of Orthodontists, Gayle Glenn, DDS, MSD, was quoted in an AAO press release as relating that: “A person’s smile is very important in communication and interpersonal relations,” and went on to point out that, “Teeth are very noticeable, so when they are unsightly or poorly aligned, this can be an easy target for teasing or bullying. Parents will often tell us that their child is being ‘teased’ about the appearance of his/her teeth.”

How Teeth Look is Increasingly Important

The scientists were surprised at the findings, as previous conclusions had put features like a child’s weight or height as the most common attributes targeted by bullies. The studies’ authors related, “The difference in findings might be explained by the fact that dental aesthetics have become a key factor in social attractiveness in our modern society.” The results of the study could be the key to a variety of dentistry and orthodontics, and more research could determine whether fixing any dental issues could result in less bullying at certain ages. The American Association of Orthodontists does recommend that kids see an orthodontist by age seven to see if there are any orthodontic issues present. According to the AAO, about 4.6 million kids and over a million adults in the United States and Canada presently are receiving orthodontic treatment.