The influence of tooth colour on the perceptions of personal characteristics among female dental patients: comparisons of unmodified, decayed and 'whitened' teeth

Br Dent J. 2008 Mar 8;204(5):E9; discussion 256-7. doi: 10.1038/bdj.2008.134. Epub 2008 Feb 15.


Objective: Physical appearance plays a key role in human social interaction and the smile and teeth are important features in determining the attractiveness of a face. Furthermore, the mouth is thought to be important in social interactions. The purpose of this study was to determine the relationship between tooth colour and social perceptions.

Methods: Cross-sectional survey. One hundred and eighty female participants viewed one of six images, either a male or a female digitally altered to display one of three possible dental statuses (unmodified, decayed, or whitened). The images were rated on four personality traits: social competence (SC), intellectual ability (IA), psychological adjustment (PA), and relationship satisfaction (RS).

Results: Decayed dental appearance led to more negative judgements over the four personality categories. Whitened teeth led to more positive appraisals. The gender of the image and the demographic background of the participant did not have a significant effect on appraisals.

Conclusion: Tooth colour exerts an influence on social perceptions. The results may be explained by negative beliefs about dental decay, such as its link with poor oral hygiene.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Color
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Dental Caries / psychology
  • Esthetics, Dental / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Insurance, Dental
  • Intelligence
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Photography, Dental
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Adjustment
  • State Dentistry / economics*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Tooth Bleaching / economics
  • Tooth Bleaching / psychology*
  • Tooth Discoloration / psychology*
  • United Kingdom