Social perceptions of individuals missing upper front teeth

Mary S. Willis, Cynthia Willis Esqueda, Ryan N. Schacht

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Although it is assumed that there are negative social consequences for individuals missing visible front teeth, no study of the way in which edentulous individuals were perceived in a social context and the potential social repercussions could be located. This initial study concerned college students' perceptions of individuals missing visible upper front teeth. 200 volunteers, 19 to 50 years of age (M = 20.6, SD = 4.4), rated five photographs depicting tooth presence or absence, from a full dentition to missing as many as four upper front teeth, on social traits including attractiveness, health status, educational attainment, satisfaction with life, active social life, aggressiveness, intelligence, trustworthiness, amount of caring, friendship, dating, and likelihood to live as a neighbor. Analysis suggested a person missing visible teeth was more negatively perceived on all social traits than a person with full dentition. Results were strongest when students were proposed to be linked to the edentulous individual in a personal way, i.e., dating or living as neighbor. Men and women agreed on perceptions of social traits and dentition condition. These results suggest the presence of strong Western cultural values, whereby those who are missing teeth may experience significant barriers to personal and social success.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)423-435
Number of pages13
JournalPerceptual and motor skills
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Sensory Systems


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