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

ST. LOUIS, Aug. 13 /PRNewswire/ -- As reported in publications and news outlets 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 a child with a straighter smile. Although the decision spawned disbelief around the globe, sadly, the phenomenon of making judgments about others based solely on the condition of their teeth is nothing new.

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

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

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

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

An early exam allows the orthodontist to offer advice and guidance as to when 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 specialized education beyond dental school to learn the proper way to align and straighten teeth. Only those with this formal education may call themselves "orthodontists," and only orthodontists are eligible for membership in the AAO.

There are more than 15,500 AAO members in the U.S., Canada and abroad. The "Find an Orthodontist" service on is available to find nearby AAO members anywhere in the world.

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

SOURCE American Association of Orthodontists
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