With body dysmorphic disorder, sufferers only see flaws

June 09, 2003

What society holds up as beautiful in men and women is often unrealistic, and in the modern age of computer-altered images and airbrushing, those ideals seem virtually unattainable for most people.

The pressure to be perfect is especially difficult for people diagnosed with body dysmorphic disorder (BDD). These people are preoccupied with perceived or imagined flaws. While most people focus to some degree on their appearances, those with BDD are obsessed with their perceived flaws.

With the number of elective cosmetic dentistry procedures being performed on the rise, dentists may be the first health care provider to notice BDD and intervene, according to a study in a recent 2003 issue of General Dentistry, the clinical, peer-reviewed journal of the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD).

Chris Herren, DMD, co-author of the study became interested in the disorder after dealing with a patient who displayed symptoms of BDD. The patient wanted whiter teeth and insisted that the teeth were too dark, regardless of the number of bleaching procedures performed.

For reasons unknown to Dr. Herren, the patient broke down and admitted that teeth whitening had become an all-consuming obsession. "The floodgates opened," he said. "The patient kind of broke down and started crying."

Sometimes patients lack a point of reference when they scrutinize their looks, says Manuel Cordero, DDS, MAGD, spokesperson for the AGD. "The most significant thing a dentist can do is make their patients aware of their oral condition," he says. "You have to make them aware of where they are in reference to other people."

Dentists who suspect patients of suffering from BDD will recommend a physician to properly diagnose the problem, since symptoms are similar to personality traits of a person unusually meticulous about their appearance. Signs of Body Dysmorphic Disorder
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Academy of General Dentistry

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