Celebrating ‘life-changing’ orthodontics

The prevailing theme of all the entries to the 2012 Against the Odds Competition was the effect of malocclusion on a person’s self esteem.

The winners of this year’s contest will be announced at British Orthodontic Society’s Annual Conference in September.


The entries were judged by Tim Newton, Professor of Psychology as Applied to Dentistry and Head of Oral Health Services Research at the King’s College London Dental Institute, Sara Wallis, feature writer of the Daily Mirror, Specialist Orthodontist Harneet Mangat and Consultant Orthodontist Alison Williams.

According to Tim Newton: ‘A comment on someone’s appearance can to create a lasting negative impact on how young people feel about themselves, which not only affects their self-esteem but also how they interact with others for years to come.’

This was certainly the case for the winner of this year’s competition, Linsay Graham. Growing up, this young woman from West Lothian in Scotland found very little to smile about. Her shy nature and unease about her crooked teeth emerged at an early age, and was exacerbated by the tragic loss of her brother at only 15 years old.

This trauma led to the teenager suffering from extreme anxiety, to the extent that she attended a special unit designed to help young people.  Fearful every time she was separated from her family, Linsay’s sense of unrest was intensified by her feeling that everyone she met was talking about her and judging her because of the appearance of her overcrowded and uneven teeth.

An especially insensitive comment about her teeth by a friend, gave Linsay the impetus to embark on orthodontic treatment, hopeful that this would be the catalyst she needed to straighten out her life, as well as her teeth.

However, just walking into the orthodontic practice meant overcoming considerable anxiety, but as she built up trust in her orthodontic specialist Dr Mustafa Abdel Ellah Mustafa at Sayegh & Partners Orthodontics in Musselborough, Scotland she slowly gained in confidence. More importantly, as soon as she began to see the incredible results he was achieving in her mouth, she has never looked back.

As Linsay points out, her crooked teeth were never just an aesthetic issue.

‘Getting braces changed more than just my appearance. My whole outlook on life changed.’

The positivity her new look has given her has changed every aspect of her life.  She is now going to university to study psychology, something the girl once too fearful to leave the house could never have imagined doing.  For a girl who never used to smile, Linsay now can’t stop beaming.

Linsay’s inspiring story has now won her more than admiration for the way she faced up to her demons.  It has also won her first prize and a chance to broaden her horizons thanks to a £750 travel grant from Ormco.

Professor Tim Newton, commented further on the psychological impact of her treatment: ‘Linsay has faced many difficulties in her young life, which led to her losing confidence in herself. A beautiful smile played a large part in her recovery, allowing her to face the world with greater self-assurance.’

Beating the Odds
Before Helen Drew had orthodontic treatment her life was dominated by bullies, depression and a constant battle to try and make friends. It is a part of her life she would rather forget.  However she says that the moment she met her orthodontist she knew that her life was going to change for the better.

After three months of orthodontic treatment she allowed herself her first ‘open mouth smile photo’ in 21 years.  Over half way through the treatment and her life had changed so much she had the confidence to go away on her first girly holiday. By the end of her treatment she applied and succeeded in winning an amazing job and had enough self esteem to engage with new people for the first time.

Helen’s experience is not an isolated one.  A team of hospital based clinicians who primarily treat children with malaligned teeth and jaw bone deficiencies (malocclusion) recently conducted a study investigating the relationship between being bullied and the presence of a malocclusion, and its effect on an individual’s self-esteem.

The key findings of the study revealed that almost 13% of adolescents aged between 10-14 years examined for orthodontic treatment had been bullied. This equates to thirteen of every one hundred young people who need orthodontic treatment.

The findings of this study show for the first time that there is clear link between being bullied and the presence of malocclusion. More importantly the negative impact on a child’s psychological status was reported. It is clear that being bullied can have both short-term and long-term effects on physiological and psychological well-being.

One of the study’s authors was Professor Tim Newton.

Commenting on Helen’s cas,e he said: ‘Helen’s transformation is remarkable, and her orthodontic treatment has given her the confidence to lead a fulfilling social and work life.’

With her days of ‘begging to be beautiful’ behind her (as she wrote in her competition entry) Helen has beaten the odds and has been awarded a top of the range Sonicare sonic toothbrush. Her orthodontic specialist Fiona Smith of The Beeches Orthodontic Practice in Preston, Lancashire has been commended, however Helen herself offered the ultimate accolade: ‘The day the braces came off I cried and now I feel amazing and in fact, cannot stop smiling! What my orthodontist did was improve my quality of life and I cannot think of anyone who deserves this award more!’

Embracing life
After suffering from some major setbacks in her life, including two serious accidents, Rachel Harvey struggled with a lack of confidence. However, she feels orthodontic treatment has vastly improved her life and now she can’t stop smiling.

Her story impressed journalist Sara Wallis and has now won her a runner up prize in the BOS’ Against the Odds competition.

Professor Tim Newton said: ‘Rachel’s case shows how orthodontic treatment can have a great psychological as well as clinical benefit.’

Her prize of a Sonicare DiamondClean sonic toothbrush will enable her to keep her newly straightened teeth immaculate.  Meanwhile the winning Orthodontic Specialist ,Dr Mustafa Abdel Ellah Mustafa at Sayegh & Partners Orthodontics in Musselborough, Scotland has scooped a second commendation.

For more information about the British Orthodontic Society please visit www.bos.org.uk.


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