Over the past several years, there has been a lot of talk about bullying and the impact it has on children and their families. It is a widespread problem that cuts across social and economic lines and affects our schools and communities. The Human Rights Education Center of Utah estimates that 1.6 million children in grades six through 10 in the United States are bullied at least once a week.

It may surprise you, but some of today’s best-loved celebrities were bullied when they were younger including Mila Kunis, Christian Bale, Chris Rock and Jennifer Lawrence. Screen sensation Jessica Alba remembers her childhood as a shy and awkward girl with buckteeth and a thick Texan accent. During an interview for The Ticket, she recalls, “I was bullied so badly my dad used to have to walk me into school so I didn’t get attacked. I’d eat my lunch in the nurses’ office so I didn’t have to sit with the other girls. Apart from my being mixed race, my parents didn’t have money so I never had the cute clothes or the cool backpack.”

While some might think that bullying is a new problem plaguing our society, chances are that it is as old as time. It is only recently that the consequences of bullying have hit the headlines and put this topic at the forefront of the national debate with stories of children and teens bullied to the point of suicide. As a result, state and local lawmakers have taken action to prevent bullying and protect children.

“I was bullied and it’s hard, you feel like high school’s never going to be over. It’s four years of your life and you just have to remember the person picking on you has their own problems and their own issues,” Megan Fox

Bullying is defined as aggressive behavior that’s persistent, intentional, and involves a real or perceived imbalance of strength or power. Bullying can take many forms including physical or verbal abuse and most recently cyber-bullying, which involves social media and e-mail.

According to stopbullying.gov, kids who are bullied are more likely to experience:

    • Depression and anxiety, increased feelings of sadness and loneliness, changes in sleep and eating patterns, and loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy. These issues may persist into adulthood.
    • Decreased academic achievement—GPA and standardized test scores—and school participation. They are more likely to miss, skip, or drop out of school.

Recent research is showing that there may be a link between a child’s teeth and bullying. A study published in the American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics found that teeth were the number one targeted physical feature to increase a child’s chance of being bullied. According to the study, the four most commonly reported dental-facial features targeted by bullies were spacing between the teeth, missing teeth, the shape or color of the teeth and prominent upper anterior (front) teeth. According to a study published in the December 2011 issue of Journal of Orthodontics, 13% of adolescents between the ages of 10 and 14 who have been examined for orthodontic treatment have been bullied. Many were ridiculed because of their teeth. This study emphasizes the importance of early orthodontic treatment for children.

“I grew up in Tennessee, and if you didn’t play football, you were a sissy. I got slurs all the time because I was in music and art . . . I was an outcast in a lot of ways . . . but everything that you get picked on for or you feel makes you weird is essentially what’s going to make you sexy as an adult.” Justin Timberlake from an interview on Ellen

As an orthodontist who specializes in treating children and teens, Dr. Audrey Yoon has seen first-hand how a child’s facial features and teeth can impact their happiness and emotional well-being. “It is amazing to see the transformation that takes place in a child when they have their braces removed. There is a new level of confidence and self-esteem,” states Dr. Yoon. Confident children are less likely to be bullied.

There have been many advances in Orthodontics and the types of braces available to correct crooked or misaligned teeth. Braces today are smaller and more comfortable. They come in a variety of styles and in some cases can be virtually invisible. “Lingual braces are an invisible solution to correcting the teeth without the braces showing,” states Dr. Yoon. “Lingual braces are placed on the non-visible side of your teeth, and so they are virtually undetectable!”

While public awareness of bullying is helping make schools safer for children, it has also lead to an understanding of some of the root causes for bullying such as the child’s teeth. The good news is that there are orthodontic solutions available to correct dental problems and give the child a healthy and beautiful smile.

If you have questions or would like more information about your child’s dental health and options for braces, please contact Dr. Audrey Yoon, The Brace Place & Kids Dentistry at (562) 804-1468.

For more information about bullying, visit dosomething.org