Teenagers are well known for worrying about what other people think about them. They’re not being deliberately self-centered or narcissistic; they’re just hard-wired that way. Adolescents are acutely aware their smile says a lot about them and plays an important role in creating a good impression.
Unfortunately, dental problems such as crooked, protruding or misaligned teeth plague many teens in the U.S., and this can lead to feelings that they’re unattractive to others, as their self-confidence plummets. This situation can quickly become a vicious circle because smiling actually makes you feel better about yourself, and if you’re embarrassed about your teeth, you certainly won’t want to show them off with a beaming grin.
During the transitional stage from childhood to adulthood, hormones take hold of the teenager, producing stronger moods and emotions, often resulting in low self-esteem and a greater awareness of peer pressure. These mood swings are caused by fluctuations in the levels of the chemicals testosterone, estrogen and progesterone.
The crucial role of a teenager’s smile
Maintaining at least some level of self-regard during this surge and dips in hormonal levels can be difficult but is vital for a healthy journey into adulthood, and the confidence to show off a winning smile during social interaction performs an important function in progressing toward adult maturity. Teens who suffer from a lack of self-confidence during the emotional turmoil of adolescence are more susceptible to the negative influences of their peers and are more likely to become depressed.
Adolescents are naturally self-conscious and suspicious that everyone is watching them. Researchers at Harvard University have discovered that teenagers feel more embarrassed than younger children or adults when they believe they’re being observed. A Psychological Science study in 2013 concluded that in adolescence, self-conscious emotion peaked in response to evaluation by others.
The beaming smile that comes with teeth in good condition isn’t the only factor that affects a teen’s confidence but there’s plenty of research to suggest it plays a crucial role. It all boils down to that if you think you look good, you’ll feel good, and teens in this state of mind are likely to be confident about learning from new experiences while less likely to fall into the trap of succumbing to negative peer pressure.
The problem of psychological bullying among teens
In 2014, U.S. government health experts published a report indicating that irregularities of the jaw and teeth prompted teasing and harassment among youngsters, impacting social interactions and mental well-being. When you’re in your formative years, these slights and jibes can be particularly cutting, because teens tend to compare themselves with their peers, and if they feel they don’t measure up, it’s a big deal for them.
Results of a study presented in 2016 in The Angle Orthodontist, the official publication of the Edward H. Angle Society of Orthodontists, showed that orthodontic treatment to correct crooked teeth resulted in a significant boost in self-regard and quality of life.
Other research has shown that 6 per cent of teenagers unhappy about their smile were also insecure about their overall appearance, and 30 per cent were most self-conscious about their teeth.
Judging a book by its cover
Older teens unhappy with their smile who are starting to think about making their own way in the world face another source of anxiety. Rightly or wrongly, appearance plays a major part in the first impressions we make and how others perceive us, and this can affect the ability to get a job, according to the American Journal of Orthodontics & Dentofacial Orthopedics (AJO-DO), which concluded that people with “ideal” smiles are considered more intelligent.
Among other studies that confirm the power of a smile when it comes to first impressions are two by market research and strategy agency Kelton Global, on behalf of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD) and Align Technology, makers of Invisalign the clear, removable appliances to correct misalignment of teeth.
Kelton found that people with an attractive smile were perceived as being more successful and smarter than someone with crooked teeth. Tim Mack, senior vice-president of business development for Align Technology, said: “You can say you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but people do it every day.”
How to restore your teen’s smile and self-esteem
Babies start smiling within a few weeks of birth. They discover that crying gains attention but smiling keeps it. As an outward manifestation of happiness, a genuine smile connects us with others. However, this social system becomes weakened when people don’t smile or conceal a smile through concerns about how they look, which can lead to difficulties in relationships.
If you are a parent of a teen struggling with lack of self-esteem through embarrassment about the condition of their teeth, an orthodontic dentist may be able to help put things right. A specialist in correcting teeth that are not positioned properly can restore your kid’s winning smile – and self-confidence – while improving the functionality of how their teeth and jaws bite together.
Look for an orthodontist who can offer a range of braces, like Dr. John Cordoba. Traditional braces are still popular among adults but teenagers may prefer more modern devices that are practically invisible. You’ll find that a reputable orthodontic dental office, like Cordoba Orthodontics, keeps up to speed with the latest advances in dental techniques and technologies, including 3D digital imaging. If your child is towards the lower end of the teenage spectrum, he or she will probably feel more at ease in a dental office that provides a fun, friendly environment for youngsters.
Negotiating the maze of adolescence can be a trying time as the developmental hormones kick in, and teenagers have a lot on their plate – coping with new experiences, adjusting expectations, and trying to strike a balance between schoolwork, friends, family and hobbies. Worrying about their smile or feeling ashamed if they’re not happy with how it looks is another cross that many teens have to bear, but it’s one adolescent burden that can be lifted with the help of parental support and a professional, compassionate orthodontist. Contact Cordoba Orthodontics today and trust the specialists with your adolescent’s smile!
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