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February 24, 2014 – Bullying has taken center stage in St. Augustine over the course of the last few years. Its awareness has grown greatly due to the media and the advent of social media. Social media, while a weapon to fight bullying, has also become a new source of bullying in Jacksonville. And it’s not just kids who get bullied. Workplace bullying occurs to adults. Recently, there was the disturbing incident with the Miami Dolphins and players being bullied by teammates. Even players in the NFL get bullied, which means we are all susceptible to it and its effects on our loved ones.

So what does this have to do with St. Augustine cosmetic dentistry? A very fair question. The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) recently completed a study that showed the No. 1 reason for bullying is a person’s smile. We have discussed in the past how the No. 1 thing someone looks at when they first meet you is your smile. Right or wrong, strangers make snap decisions about us based upon our smile. The first impressions during a first date or a job interview, and the potential to be bullied all occur with your first smile to a stranger.

The AAO focuses on braces and the position of your teeth. The position of your teeth affects not only your smile but your facial features, known as dental-facial features, and airway. The AAO found that the four most common dental-facial features that were a target of bullying were spaces between teeth, missing teeth, the shape or color of teeth, and prominent front teeth or “buck teeth.” The purpose of the study was to look at how bullying effected self-esteem, school performance, and school attendance.

As has already been mentioned, bullying is not isolated to the school yard. These same results can and have been extrapolated to the workplace. Attendance at work decreases. Productivity at work decreases. A big part of the reason this continues is because bullying is not yet illegal in the United States. But other countries are starting to outlaw such acts: Canada, Australia, and France, just to name a few. Some cities have looked into it, but not Jacksonville or St. Augustine. Sexual harassment was not illegal in the workforce either prior to landmark cases that changed that. One would have to assume bullying will take a similar course before it becomes illegal.

Bullying is never the victim’s fault. No one is perfect or without flaw. And bullying will never stop. Even if laws are enacted, the number of incidents may decrease, but there will still be bullying. We cannot simply say “deal with it.” Shedding light on the problem will help and decrease its occurrence, but it will still exist because bullies will never change. So, if the No. 1 cause of bullying is a smile and you had the chance to change the leading cause of bullying, would you? And how could you change things like spacing between teeth, missing teeth, the shape and color of teeth, or “buck teeth”? They can all be changed if you want, faster and easier than you think, and that is what your World Golf Village dentist will discuss in his blogs this week.

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