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The influence of visible dental caries on social judgements and overall facial attractiveness amongst undergraduates

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)212-217
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of dentistry
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2011

King's Authors


Objectives: Where previous work has suggested that the presence of caries alone may influence social judgements, this study investigated whether overall facial attractiveness and caries influence ratings of social and intellectual competence and the extent to which any effect may be the result of facial attractiveness alone. Methods: Three photos of young males who were reliably rated as 'unattractive', 'attractive' or 'neither unattractive nor attractive', were selected and were digitally modified by a dentist to have caries or not, to give a total of 6 vignettes. In a cross-sectional study of N = 263 undergraduates, each participant appraised one single colour photograph for the following characteristics: social competence, intellectual ability, psychological adjustment, care of own appearance and attractiveness, using a 5 point Likert scale. Results: The data were analysed using two-way ANOVA where factor 1 was attractiveness and factor 2 was the presence or absence of caries. Faces of higher attractiveness received significantly more positive appraisals than those of lower attractiveness on all measures, irrespective of caries. Presence of caries only resulted in significant decreases in measures of attractiveness and care of own appearance, but none of the other measures. Conclusions: Individuals' overall level of attractiveness is more important to a social judgement than their dental condition. Previous research in this area may have found significant effects for dental condition due to using a single face with more marked differences in caries, which affected facial attractiveness. Future research should focus on factors that affect attractiveness and how these compete to affect social judgments.

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