Study links dental problems in kids to bullying

Adolescents are often teased and bullied if they have missing, misshaped, or discolored teeth, according to a new study in the American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics (December 2013, Vol. 144:6, pp. 872-878).

The study, which was conducted among sixth-grade students (ages 11 to 12) in Amman, Jordan, found a significant prevalence of bullying in school was due to the children's dental or facial appearance.

Researchers analyzed 920 children (470 girls, 450 boys) to gauge the effect of general physical and dentofacial features on children's school attendance and academic performance.

Teeth were the No. 1 targeted physical feature that increased a child's chance of being bullied, followed by the child's strength and weight, the researchers found. Half of the victims also recognized teeth as a cause of the bullying. The three most commonly reported dentofacial features targeted by bullies were spacing between the teeth or missing teeth, shape or color of the teeth, and prominent maxillary anterior teeth.

Some 47% of the students in the study said they had been bullied, with significantly more boys reported being bullied than girls. The percentage of students subjected to name-calling was 40.9%.

A significantly greater proportion of victims of bullying reported playing hooky from school and disliking school than those who were not bullied, the study authors reported.

A panel of U.S. orthodontists concurred with the findings of the study, saying they think bullying among Jordanian children can easily translate to the experiences of American children, according to an American Association of Orthodontists press release. The orthodontists report that they have treated many young patients who were teased and even bullied because of their teeth.

Michael Ragan, DDS, a Dallas-based orthodontist, recalled being bullied as a child because of his overbite, he stated in the press release.

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