Community Dental Health

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Cover Date:
March 2019
Print ISSN:
0265 539X
Electronic ISSN:

Embarrassing realities: The portrayal of dentistry in reality tv ‘dentertainment’


Background: Dentists are not common subjects within reality TV. When presented in film, the overall impression has been reported to
be negative. The British reality TV show ‘Embarrassing Bodies’ includes within its format, cases where complex and extensive dental
treatment is presented. This analysis examines how these cases frame dentistry, as a rare example of the profession and its activities upon
the small screen. Methods: 14 dental cases from the show were located and transcribed. Semiotic and thematic analysis was used to
explore the deeper and hidden meanings and signs within the cases. This developed understanding of the implications of the show upon
the public presentation of dentistry, oral health and disease, patients and dental professionals. Results: Five distinct themes were identified within the corpus of cases; Professional Values and Portrayal of Cosmetic Dentistry; The Presentation of Oral Health and Disease;
Dental Physiognomy; Dentistry as Empowerment and Unequal Professional Relationships. Conclusions: ‘Embarrassing Bodies’ portrays
a presentation of dentistry that focuses disproportionately upon restorative dental interventions, especially cosmetic dental therapies, in
preference to preventative treatment. Dental disease is presented in a way that associates oral health conditions with dirt and as being
caused by neglect and carelessness.

Keywords: Dentistry, Cosmetics, Media, Reality TV, Public Health

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Alexander C L Holden, Barry Gibson, Heiko Spallek

Articles from this issue

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  1. Editorial:‘No simple solutions, no single ingredient’: Systemsorientated approaches for addressing Wicked Problems in population oral health
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  1. Dental Public Health in Action: The use of the NICE ten step model to conduct an oral health needs assessment in South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw
  2. 5
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  1. Caries-preventive efficacy of a supervised school toothbrushing programme in Northland, New Zealand
  2. 9
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  1. Socioeconomic Variation in the association between Malocclusion and Oral Health Related Quality of Life
  2. 17
  3. 21

  1. Low rates of dental attendance by the age of one and inequality between local government administrative areas in England
  2. 22
  3. 26

  1. The relationship between body mass index and oral health status among Saudi adults: a cross-sectional study
  2. 27
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  1. The acceptability of fluoride varnish and fissure sealant treatments in children aged 6-9 delivered in a school setting
  2. 33
  3. 38

  1. Interventions to reduce socio-economic inequalities in dental service utilisation – a systematic review
  2. 39
  3. 45

  1. Embarrassing realities: The portrayal of dentistry in reality tv ‘dentertainment’
  2. 46
  3. 54

  1. Systems science and oral health: Implications for Dental Public Health?
  2. 55
  3. 62

  1. The Boundaries between Caries and Periodontal Diseases. What are the Implications for Education in Dental Public Health? Proceedings of EADPH/SESPO Pre-Congress Workshop held on Wednesday, 17 October 2018 at The Centro Cultural Sa Nostra Congress Cen
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  3. 86