Picture the typical bullied child. What do you see? Glasses? An odd haircut and unfashionable clothes? Awkward posture?
How about their teeth?
A study published last fall in the American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics found that teeth were the number one physical feature targeted by bullies – more than physique, hair, clothes or facial features. Gapped or missing teeth, tooth shape or color, and overbite were most often picked on.
One of the study authors, dentist Zaid Al-Bitar, describes more of the study’s particulars and findings in the video below:
Although the research focused on the experience of Jordanian sixth graders,
A panel of top U.S. orthodontists concurred with the findings of the study, saying they believe the bullying among Jordanian children can easily translate to the experiences of American children. The panel of 12 orthodontists who hold positions of influence with the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) report that they have treated many young patients who were teased and even bullied because of their teeth.
And of course there are good ways available for dealing with misaligned, missing or damaged teeth. Restorative techniques can improve both appearance and function, while supporting good overall health. Orthodontics and orthopedics can correct malocclusion. Myofunctional therapy can help correct poor orofacial habits and muscle function that may contribute to dental problems, as well as issues with breathing, sleeping and even facial development.
For it’s important to remember that things like crooked teeth or a misaligned bite usually involve more than simple aesthetics. They can contribute to a range of both oral and systemic health issues best addressed early.
But it’s just as important to remember that a pretty smile is no guarantee against bullying. You don’t want to focus so much on the targets that you overlook that the problem is the bullying itself.
Kids don’t bully because of how someone else acts or looks. The actions come from them, and they have their own struggles. They may be bullied at home by a guardian or an older sibling; may not be able to follow rules; may not be able to socialize well. They have a hard time empathizing with others. They often have inflated egos. They believe the world should fit their expectations.
To “deal” with bullying by suggesting the victim change is exactly the wrong way to go about it. It only validates the bully’s behavior and blames the victim.
Dental problems should be addressed for the problems they are, not to appease a troubled kid.
For resources on how to prevent and stop bullying, visit stopbullying.gov.