It’s no secret that the teenage years can be rough. Almost everyone has that friend who draws attention to the fact that one of your ears sticks out a bit farther than the other, or asks you whether you plan to fix the space between your front teeth.

It’s all part of growing up, but that doesn’t mean those remarks don’t put dents in your self-esteem.  May is National Teen Self-Esteem Month, an opportunity to focus attention on the importance of ensuring the teens in our lives have a healthy outlook of themselves.

Low self-esteem is a way of thinking of yourself as being inadequate, unlovable, even incompetent, according to DoSomething.org. Once teens form these views of themselves, it often leads to self-defeating behavior, and those thoughts can carry on into adulthood.

Consider these statistics and facts regarding self-esteem among teenagers that DoSomething.org has shared:

  • 44 percent of girls and 15 percent of boys are trying to lose weight.
  • More than 40 percent of boys in middle and high school regularly exercise in hope of increasing muscle mass.
  • 75 percent of girls with low self-esteem say they engage in cutting, bullying, smoking and other destructive behaviors.
  • 7 in 10 girls believe that they don’t measure up in areas such as their looks, school performance and friendships.
  • Girls’ self-esteem is more strongly related to how she views her own body shape and body weight, than how much she actually weighs.

One of the most rewarding aspects of being an orthodontist and working with pre-teens, teens and adults is seeing how orthodontic treatment improves self-confidence and self-esteem, regardless of age. We here at Orthodontics Only want that for everyone who wants to feel better about themselves.

A 2017 study on dental disorders and their influence on adolescent self-esteem levels found that malocclusion (bad bite), trauma to front teeth, tooth loss and untreated decay “causes a profound impact” on adolescents’ self-esteem. This excerpt from the study is particularly interesting:

“The results of this study showed a significant association between self-esteem and perceived dental aesthetics, as individuals who perceived themselves as ‘less attractive’ have presented with lower self-esteem scores than those who saw themselves as ‘attractive.’ This implies that self-esteem might be affected by self-perceived aesthetics.”

An orthodontist’s primary concern is for each patient’s oral health, so treatment planning is done with that in mind. But it’s an added bonus to know that aligning teeth properly and correcting bite issues also leads to increased self-confidence and self-esteem.

The Orthodontics Only team has lost count of how many patients have come to their first appointments embarrassed of their smiles and hesitant to show their teeth. Likewise, we can’t count the number of those same patients who leave here smiling broadly on the day their braces come off or their Invisalign treatment is complete. Their improved self-esteem and self-confidence are palpable.

A New Day for Braces

Some parents may wonder if braces will cause further ridicule for their children when they’re among their school peers. If you’re over 40 and had braces as a child, chances are you got teased for having a “brace face” in school. The times have changed, and these days children view orthodontic treatment as a rite of passage that most of their friends are going through, too.

Appliances also have evolved over the past 30 years. Metal brackets are smaller than ever. Brackets are made from clear and tooth-colored materials to make them less noticeable. And there’s Invisalign, the system of clear plastic aligners than are virtually unnoticeable when worn.

Start Early

Self-esteem expert Jack Canfield, who authored the book “Chicken Soup for the Soul,” has said that80 percent of children entering the first grade scored high on the self-esteem inventory. By the time they reached fifth grade, only 20 percent of the children scored high. Once those children had graduated from high school, only 5 percentscored high on the self-esteem inventory.

If the cause of low self-esteem is related to the appearance of a child’s teeth, consider this: The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children be evaluated by an orthodontist by age 7. At this age, the bite is established and there is a mix of baby and adult teeth present. Often, no treatment is needed at this time, and an orthodontist simply puts the child into a monitoring program where annual appointments are scheduled to keep track of growth and identify any issues that crop up that should be treated.

In some isolated cases, an issue may be identified that is best addressed while the child is young and still growing. Many interceptive orthodontic treatments enable us to put your child’s growth to work for us.

In addition to potentially heading off some self-esteem issues before they crop up, interceptive treatment sometimes eliminates the need for more extensive orthodontic treatment in the future. We can use a variety of appliances to create more room for adult teeth to erupt, which eliminates the need to have teeth pulled later in order to have successful orthodontic treatment.

In other situations, we can promote or inhibit jaw growth to allow one jaw to catch up with the other. Doing this in a growing child often eliminates the need for surgical intervention later in life.

Treating some problems early can even eliminate the need for braces later, or greatly reduce the length of time a child spends in braces when he or she is older.

All of these are excellent reasons to undergo orthodontic treatment, but the icing on the cake is the possibility that in addition to correcting serious bite and alignment problems, we are eliminating issues before your child starts to feel self-conscious about them.

We love playing a an important role in giving children and adults a reason to feel confident about their smiles. Please call our office today if you would like to schedule an appointment.

Learn More about National Teen Self-Esteem Month

We hope you’ll use National Teen Self-Esteem Month as an opportunity to talk to your children about the importance of healthy self-esteem. Learn more about the movement and ways to get involved by visiting their website.