February 17, 2020

Does malocclusion influence dating prospects?

We know that attractive people may get more dates.  But, does malocclusion influence dating prospects?  Read on to find the answer.

There is a reasonable amount of evidence from cross-sectional studies that suggest facial attractiveness is an influential factor in dating. However, with the advent of smartphone-based dating apps, it may be that perceived attractiveness may becoming increasingly important.  This is because, in a social media-driven system, significant influence may be placed on appearance rather than on the day to day interaction that occurred in the past.  Furthermore, dental appearance is likely to influence overall attractiveness, although this relationship is not always clear cut.  This new paper provides an insight into this rather complex area of interaction.

The Journal of Orthodontics published this paper. A team from King’s College in London did the research.

The effect of malocclusion on dating prospects

Sonia Khela et al.

Journal of Orthodontics


What did they ask?

They did this study to answer this question about dating;

“Does the appearance of malocclusion influence dating prospects and are there and predictors that may influence the likelihood of dating”?

What did they do?

They did a cross-sectional analytical study that was based on questionnaires.  This was a little complex, so I hope that I can outline the major stages of their research project.

They obtained a sample of 237 undergraduate students who were over 18 years old and heterosexual.  They excluded dental and psychology students. 58% of the students were female, and the average age was 23.2 years.

They took frontal facial photographs of one male and one female volunteer. Then they made three standard images of each picture to represent:

  • Aligned teeth
  • Missing maxillary incisor teeth
  • Crowded teeth.

They constructed a questionnaire that asked the following questions on their perception of the person in the image:

  • Their attractiveness?
  • Their perceived intelligence?
  • Did they look happy?
  • Did they look nervous?
  • How much did they want to go on a date with this person?

They recorded their responses on a visual analogue scale.

Finally, they randomly allocated one of the photographs to each student. Men were assigned female photos and women were given the male picture.  Each person only looked at one photograph and completed the questionnaire.

The final data analysis was a regression with the likelihood of dating the primary outcome.

What did they find?

They found the following:

  • The panel rated the photographs with the aligned teeth significantly more attractive than the other pictures.
  • They also rated the photograph with the aligned teeth more highly for the likelihood of dating than the images with crowding or missing teeth.

Their overall conclusion was:

“Malocclusion influences dating prospects. Importantly, this effect was mediated through the effect of malocclusion on overall facial attractiveness, rather than the dental appearance alone”.

What did I think?

Firstly, I thought that it was great to see a study that was not focussed on the usual orthodontic outcomes. As a result, this study is likely to add to our knowledge of the potentially significant effects of malocclusion.  It may also address some of the issues that funders of orthodontic treatment currently have with uncertainty about the effects of malocclusion.

It was also good to see that the authors clearly stated some of the limitations of their study.  One of the most important of these was the “still life” nature of the study. This is because dating prospects are clearly influenced by factors other than appearance. Nevertheless, they did draw attention to the increasing role of smartphone-based dating applications that may be extensively by “younger” people.

It is also relevant of us to consider that the sample of students is not representative of the general population. Aa a result, the study may lack generality.

Final comments

Nevertheless, within these limitations, this study does provide us with clinically relevant information, and it tends to reinforce previous research.  I thought that this was an excellent small project that adds value.

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Have your say!

  1. This research team has hereby earned the Thank You, Captain Obvious Award for the year. Is there grant money available for this sort of thing?

    • This kind of research blows my mind. Money and time spent on baffling issues when studies could be done on metrics that significantly impact patient health.

  2. I often consider a problem by asking what will happen if I don’t do it. Will non cosmetic dentistry and medicine the answer is usually reasonably straight forward. If you don’t do the root filling you will lose the tooth, of you don’t remove the cancer you will die of it, etc. With cosmetic interventions like most ortho treatment there is no good answer if the patient asks, “what will happen if I don’t do it?”, since nothing will happen (ie there is no true need).
    Maybe you could advise the patient that they will not get a date, will get bullied, be miserable, etc, but I’m not sure that this is a reasonable thing to do (sarcasm alert, it’s not reasonable). The fact is that the psychological effects of appearance are highly variable and tricky to assess on an individual basis. People will want their teeth straighter but I’m not sure there’s a good answer to whether the NHS (or similar) should pay for it, and I’m not sure that proving that people don’t like to look at or have crooked teeth really answers it either.

  3. We need a follow-up study to determine if having crooked teeth and a bad smile increases the chances of getting a date with another person with crooked teeth and a bad smile.

  4. There have been many studies published in the AJO over the past five years assessing perceived self confidence and orthodontic treatment. The studies have been very strong in claiming that self esteem is greatly affected by having orthodontic treatment. And, the increase in self esteem happens the day they have their braces put on. Think about when you start a diet, or any self help program. The day you start it, you feel better about yourself. You don’t have to finish the program before you feel better. Same with orthodontics. Now, if you feel better about yourself, your self esteem is higher, you tend to be more outgoing, more courageous. Those people tend to achieve at a higher level. There was a study that assessed the percentage of people that went to college on the basis of if they had braces or not. Now, that study is most likely flawed because if the economics of going to college and how that is similar to getting braces, but it was also overwhelming (but most likely flawed).
    Bottom line, straight teeth help people feel more confident (yes, it is sad that is world in which we live, but it is a reality), and thus, we help peoples lives in more ways than we know. And yes, now we know we’ll help our patients get married some day too! 🙂

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