Research undertaken at the University of Adelaide overturns the belief that turning your crooked teeth into a beautiful smile will automatically boost your self-confidence.
The study, carried out by Dr Esma Dogramaci and Professor David Brennan from the University of Adelaide's Dental School, followed 448 13-year-olds from South Australia in 1988 and 1989. By the time that they turned 30 in 2005 and 2006 more than a third of them had received orthodontic treatment.
"The study, which is the first of its type undertaken in Australia and only the second in the world, examined if having braces lead to a greater level of happiness or psychosocial outcomes, later in life," says Dr Dogramaci.
"There was a pattern of higher psychosocial scores in people who did not have orthodontic treatment meaning people who hadn't had braces fitted were significantly more optimistic than the ones that did have braces.
"Those who didn't have braces had varying levels of crooked teeth, just like those who had braces treatment - ranging from mild through to very severe."
The study looked at four psychosocial aspects: how well people felt they coped with new or difficult situations and associated setbacks; how much they felt that could take care of their own health; the support the person believed they received from their personal network and finally their own level of optimism.
"These indicators were chosen because they are important for psychosocial functioning and are relevant to health behaviours and health outcomes; since the core research question was the impact of braces treatment on patients' self-confidence and happiness in later life," says Dr Dogramaci.
Fourth year dental student Alex Furlan has never had braces fitted: "My orthodontist recommended that I have braces fitted but I'm quite happy without them. I've never felt the need to straighten my teeth - I can get on in life without having perfectly straight teeth," he says.
"A lot of people are convinced that if they have braces, they will feel more positive about themselves and do well, psychosocially, in later life. This study confirmed that other factors play a role in predicting psychosocial functioning as adults - braces as a youngster was not one of them," says Dr Dogramacci.
"But brushing at least twice a day and seeing a dentist regularly were amongst the factors related to better psychosocial scores."
"On a population level, those who have never had braces were more positive than those who had braces. While experiencing braces treatment won't guarantee happiness later in life, brushing teeth twice a day and seeing a dentist for regular check-ups will help to keep you healthy and happy."
The research which was published in the journal Orthodontics and Craniofacial Research and was carried out by the Adelaide Dental School and the Australian Research Centre for Population Oral Health, the University of Adelaide.