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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 May, 2004, 22:59 GMT 23:59 UK
Celebrities spark dental trips
Professor Jimmy Steele
Professor Steele said many patients have unrealistic expectations
Young Britons are putting pressure on dentists to give them perfect teeth, according to a top expert.

Professor Jimmy Steele, of Newcastle University, says young people are being influenced by images of celebrities with perfect smiles.

He said many patients placed unrealistic demands on dentists.

"Patients have developed unreasonable expectations of their dentist and they are putting increasing pressures on the profession," he said.

Professor Steele said images of celebrities with perfect teeth were to blame.

"You only have to open some of the glossy magazines to see pictures of famous people with perfect, unblemished teeth, or features about cosmetic procedures, such as bleaching."

He said the images gave people unrealistic ideas of what can be achieved. He said many patients were asking dentists to perform small miracles.

More aware

A study by Professor Steele and colleagues at the University of Adelaide found young people are much more aware of their teeth and gums compared to older generations.

The researchers analysed the results from two major surveys carried out in the UK and Australia in the late 1990s.

Patients have developed unreasonable expectations of their dentist
Professor Jimmy Steele
Participants were asked to rate the state of their teeth and gums. The higher the score, the worse they perceived their problems to be.

The surveys found that older people were much less likely to report problems than those in younger age groups.

People aged between 30 and 49 scored most. Those under the age of 30 came next. Those over the age of 70 came last.

This is despite the fact that they are most likely to have problems with their teeth or gums.

Professor Steele said the findings showed that young people were simply more aware of the state of their teeth than older people.

He said this was probably due to the fact that they were influenced by pictures of celebrities with perfect teeth.

"There is a strong psychological element to health and well-being and despite the fact that oral health has been steadily improving over the years, young adults are more likely to believe they have unhealthy teeth and gums because they compare themselves with the high standards set in the celebrity world."

The British Dental Association said people could keep their teeth healthy by looking after them.

"It's good news that people are becoming increasingly aware of the benefit of healthy teeth, but the emphasis needs to be as much on what happens outside the dental surgery as in it," said a spokesman.

"Brushing twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, cutting down on sugary food and drink and stopping smoking are the most effective ways of making sure your mouth looks good and stays healthy."

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10 May 04  |  Health

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