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Orthodontic treatment not associated with overall happiness, study finds

ADELAIDE, Australia: Research undertaken at the University of Adelaide has examined whether an orthodontic treatment has an impact on psychosocial outcomes. The study concluded that, contrary to popular belief, such therapy does not result in better psychosocial functioning later in life.

The study, the first of its type in Australia and the second in the world, investigated whether having undergone treatment with fixed orthodontic appliances led to a greater level of happiness or psychosocial outcomes later in life. The longitudinal study followed 448 13-year-olds from Adelaide who had previously participated in an oral epidemiology study between 1988 and 1989. By the time the participants turned 30 in 2005 and 2006, more than a third had received an orthodontic treatment.

“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 study co-author Dr Esma Doğramaci, lecturer in orthodontics at the university’s School of Dentistry. “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. First, it examined how well the participants felt they coped with new or difficult situations and associated setbacks. Then, the researchers checked how confident they felt in taking care of their own health. The researchers also assessed the support the participants believed they received from their personal network and, finally, their level of optimism.

“These indicators were chosen because they are important for psychosocial functioning and are relevant to health behaviours and health outcomes, since the core research question was the impact of braces treatment on patients’ self-confidence and happiness in later life,” Doğramaci noted. “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.”

The study, titled “The long-term influence of orthodontic treatment on adults’ psychosocial outcomes: An Australian cohort study”, was published online on 27 May 2019 in Orthodontics and Craniofacial Research, ahead of inclusion in an issue.

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