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Does dental appearance impact on employability in adults? A scoping review of quantitative and qualitative evidence


Background The importance of physical appearance in social and professional situations has been well studied. It has been suggested that improving dental appearance may increase employment prospects. This scoping review aims to map the current literature regarding the impact of dental appearance on employability.

Methods A scoping review was carried out in accordance with guidance from the Joanna Briggs Institute. Inclusion and exclusion criteria were developed iteratively, databases were searched and decisions on inclusion made in duplicate. Data were charted in Excel and synthesised using a visual map, study summary table and narrative description.

Results We identified 16 relevant articles: ten experimental simulation studies, two qualitative studies, one cross-sectional survey, one pre-/post-dental treatment survey, one retrospective cohort study and one narrative systematic review. Experimental simulations support the notion that visible dental conditions can negatively impact appraisals of employment-related personal characteristics. Negative impacts on job-seeking self-efficacy and willingness to apply for jobs have also been documented.

Conclusions The applicability of this evidence base to the UK health system context is uncertain and demonstration of real-life impact on employment is lacking. Further research is needed before programmes to improve dental appearance could be justified on the basis of improving employment outcomes.

Key points

  • Maps the existing literature on the link between dental appearance and employability.

  • Identifies where there are gaps in the literature and makes recommendations for further research.

  • Questions the NHS definition of 'clinically necessary' dental treatment.

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The authors gratefully acknowledge the input of Mrs Sandra White in identifying the research topic. This study was funded by Public Health England. The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of Public Health England or the National Health Service.

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Correspondence to Deborah Moore.

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Moore, D., Keat, R. Does dental appearance impact on employability in adults? A scoping review of quantitative and qualitative evidence. Br Dent J (2020).

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