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Perceptions of adolescents and young people regarding endemic dental fluorosis in a rural area of Brazil: psychosocial suffering

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Abstract

Severe dental fluorosis is endemic in some rural areas of Brazil. This paper describes the psychosocial consequences of this condition and how it has affected the self-esteem of adolescents and young people in a rural area in Brazil. Semi-structured, face-to-face interviews were carried out with 23 adolescents and young people affected by severe dental fluorosis and 14 of their teachers. The study revealed the affected individuals were embarrassed to smile at strangers due to a presumed association between fluorosis and a lack of dental hygiene. Further findings include conflicts between affected and non-affected students at school, problems in pursuing a romantic relationship and uncertainties regarding a professional future. Disbelief and scepticism were observed regarding the ethical position that science can offer a solution to the problems stemming from the disease. Lesions from severe dental fluorosis appear to be a stigmatising factor and have contributed toward suffering and self-exclusion among an entire generation of adolescents and young people.
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Keywords: adolescents; endemic dental fluorosis; qualitative research; social exclusion; stigma

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Dental School of the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (UFMG), Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil 2: Pharmacy School of UFMG, Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Publication date: November 1, 2009

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