Research from the University of Adelaide Dental School overturns the belief that braces automatically boost the patient’s self-confidence, with a study that followed 448 subjects from South Australia from the time they were 13 years old in 1988 or 1989 through their thirtieth birthday in 2005 or 2006, with more than a third receiving orthodontic treatment.
“The study, which is the first of its type undertaken in Australia and only the second in the world, examined if having braces led to a greater level of happiness or psychosocial outcomes later in life,” said author Esma Dogramaci, BDS, MSc, MFDS, MOrth.
“There was a pattern of higher psychosocial scores in people who did not have orthodontic treatment, meaning people who hadn’t had braces fitted were significantly more optimistic than the ones that did have braces,” said Dogramaci. “Those who didn’t have braces had varying levels of crooked teeth, just like those who had braces treatment, ranging from mild through to very severe.”
The study looked at four psychosocial aspects: how well people felt they coped with new or difficult situations and associated setbacks; how much they felt that they could take care of their own health; the support they believed they received from their personal network; and their own level of optimism.
“These indicators were chosen because they are important for psychosocial functioning and are relevant to health behaviors and health outcomes, since the core research question was the impact of braces treatment on patients’ self-confidence and happiness later in life,” said Dogramaci.
Fourth-year dental student Alex Furlan has never had braces.
“My orthodontist recommended that I have braces fitted, but I’m quite happy without them. I’ve never felt the need to straighten my teeth. I can get on in life without having perfectly straight teeth,” Furlan said.
“A lot of people are convinced that if they have braces, they will feel more positive about themselves and do well, psychosocially, in later life. This study confirmed that other factors play a role in predicting psychosocial functioning as adults. Braces as a youngster was not one of them,” said Dogramaci.
“But brushing at least twice a day and seeing a dentist regularly were amongst the factors related to better psychosocial scores,” said Dogramaci.
“On a population level, those who have never had braces were more positive than those who had braces. While experiencing braces treatment won’t guarantee happiness later in life, brushing teeth twice a day and seeing a dentist for regular checkups will help to keep you healthy and happy,” said Dogramaci.