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Article: Volume 45 Number 10 Page 902 - November 2018

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  Dent Update 2018; 45: 902-910

Restorative dentistry:  The Dangers of Social Media and Young Dental Patients’ Body Image

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Abstract: New media poses new dangers for many younger dental patients and, in particular, to their body image. There is now a generation of younger dental patients that have grown up entirely in the digital era where social media is just part of their normal life. Most of the images they are exposed to have some benefits, but others can pose significant risks for them. For instance, images are readily available to them of the supposed ‘ideal’ dental or facial appearance and sometimes accompanied by some alleged ‘quick fix’ to achieve dental or facial improvement. There are potential dangers of being exposed persistently to such highly idealized images in that many adolescents perceive that their happiness is largely dependent on achieving these artificially enhanced versions of alleged dental or facial beauty. There are dangers in some impressionable young people seeking elective interventions to improve their appearance in various ways which can have longer term mental or physical health consequences. Dentists need to be aware of these important issues in order to help younger people avoid various dangers and to help to safeguard their longer term dental and emotional health. This article aims to provide professionals in various fields with recommendations on advising young patients about some of the dangers of spurious claims about ‘do-it-yourself’ dentistry or facial aesthetics, as well as helping them avoid destructive or unstable treatments, especially those of the ‘quick fix’ variety. Caution is advised in relation to dentists and young patients not believing unproven claims for some treatments.

Clinical relevance: It is important to challenge unrealistic aspirations of some adolescents about their appearance early on, in order to help to manage those expectations more sensibly and thereby avoid later disappointment, complaints or litigation.

Author notes: Shivani Rana, BDS(Hons), MJDF RCS(Eng), PgCert(DentEd), Dental Core Trainee 2−3 in Restorative Dentistry, Oral Surgery and Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Department of Restorative Dentistry and Traumatology, King’s College Hospital Dental Institute, Bessemer Road, London SE5 9RS and Martin Kelleher, MSc, FDS RCPS, FDS RCS(Ed), FDS RCS(Eng), Consultant in Restorative Dentistry, Department of Restorative Dentistry and Traumatology, King’s College Hospital Dental Institute, Bessemer Road, London SE5 9RS, UK.

Objective: To understand the possible adverse effects that new media, the internet and viral trends can have on young patients’ concerns and expectations about their dental and/or facial appearance when they are at a particularly vulnerable time in their emotional and physical development.