It’s heartbreaking that kids can get bullied in our schools because of the appearance of their teeth. I have had parents bring their children to me for consultations because other children (and sadly even adults) have made comments to them about their child’s maligned teeth. Extremely crooked teeth in children has been associated with bullying, poorer oral health, and self-dissatisfaction with their appearance.
According to stopbullying.gov, “Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time”.
There is a phase in a child’s life where the baby teeth are falling out and the adult teeth are coming in, making the appearance of the teeth look off. For some kids, their teeth will not improve with time and they can benefit from early alignment. A short course of braces treatment to straighten teeth for a young child (7-10 years old) who is bullied will help to improve their confidence during the vulnerable developing years. Patients that are 12 years old and above normally have all their adult teeth and would then be subject to full treatment which can range anywhere from 12-24 months.
A study in the American Journal of Orthodontics looked a bullying in Jordanian children and noted that 47% were bullied most frequently because of their teeth, followed by strength and weight. They also found that features of the teeth that were most bullied were missing teeth, shape/color of the teeth, space between the teeth and protrusion of teeth.
Another study in the European Journal of Orthodontics looked at how aligning the teeth affects bullying. Jabinder Seehra et al found that “…(78 per cent) participants who were bullied due to the presence of a malocclusion reported significantly less self-reported frequency of bullying, following commencement of orthodontic treatment.” This is encouraging as the bullying is reduced with the initial placement of braces.
Besides physical appearance, kids can be bullied for a variety of reasons. These include the victim has an illness or disability, for their sexual orientation, their race, religious/cultural beliefs. Types of bullying behaviors could be verbal, physical and cyber.
Here are some tips for those that are bullied.
1. Don’t lose your temper, just walk away. A bully thrives on the reaction they get, so don’t give them one!
2. Don’t get physical because you don’t know what the bully will do back. Instead, you can stand up for yourself by walking away.
3. Talk about it with your guidance counselor, teacher or friend. This will give you an outlet to relieve your fears and frustrations.
Cited in Scopus: 22
Bullying among Jordanian schoolchildren, its effects on school performance, and the contribution of general physical and dentofacial features
Zaid B. Al-Bitar, Iyad K. Al-Omari, Hawazen N. Sonbol, Hazem T. Al-Ahmad, Susan J. Cunningham
American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics, Vol. 144, Issue 6, p872–878
Published in issue: December 2013
Interceptive orthodontic treatment in bullied adolescents and its impact on self-esteem and oral-health-related quality of life
Jadbinder Seehra J.T Newton Andrew T. DiBiase
European Journal of Orthodontics, Volume 35, Issue 5, 1 October 2013, Pages 615–621,https://doi.org/10.1093/ejo/cjs051
27 July 2012