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Summer Games 'Swap' Raises Questions About Image, Oral Health

Thursday, August 14, 2008 General News J E 4
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ST. LOUIS, Aug. 13 As reported in publications and newsoutlets throughout the world, a seven-year-old child singer with "crooked" and"buck" teeth was replaced at the summer games opening show's musical for achild with a straighter smile. Although the decision spawned disbelief aroundthe globe, sadly, the phenomenon of making judgments about others based solelyon the condition of their teeth is nothing new.

In a study published more than 25 years ago, focus groups reviewed photosof young, smiling individuals which had been altered to show varyingorthodontic problems.

"When the focus groups looked at the altered photos, they usedunflattering terms such as 'unattractive' and 'aggressive' to describe theindividuals," said Dr. Raymond George, Sr., DMD, an orthodontist and presidentof the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO). "But, when groups sawphotos of the same individuals with a healthy, beautiful smile, they were morelikely to view the individuals as 'intelligent,' 'attractive' and 'a friendI'd like to have.' Sadly, as the summer games experience shows, attitudeshave not improved since this study was published."

Dr. George points out that the most important reason to have orthodontictreatment is for good dental health. "There's a correlation between thecondition of the teeth and mouth and the condition of the body. When the teethand jaws are aligned, they function better and there may be less dentaldisease. With good teeth, it's easier to bite, chew and eat a variety ofhealthy foods. Good 'fuel' contributes to good health. It's a win-win," saidDr. George.

As for very young children, the AAO recommends a check-up with anorthodontic specialist no later than age seven. "Even with baby teeth present,orthodontists are able to spot subtle problems that can evolve into obviousproblems as adult teeth emerge," said Dr. George.

An early exam allows the orthodontist to offer advice and guidance as towhen the appropriate age to begin treatment would be.

Orthodontists are in the best position to provide orthodontic treatment.Orthodontists receive an additional two to three years of specializededucation beyond dental school to learn the proper way to align and straightenteeth. Only those with this formal education may call themselves"orthodontists," and only orthodontists are eligible for membership in theAAO.

There are more than 15,500 AAO members in the U.S., Canada and abroad.The "Find an Orthodontist" service on http://www.braces.org is available tofind nearby AAO members anywhere in the world.

Pam Paladin, 314-993-1700, ext. 524

ppaladin@aaortho.org

SOURCE American Association of Orthodontists
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