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The exceptional normal as an incentive in orthodontic practice for young people
Linköping University, The Tema Institute, Department of Child Studies. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-0587-3399
2014 (English)Conference paper, Abstract (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Orthodontics, which literally means ’straight teeth’, is a non-controversial practice that treats esthetic features of the face. The paper is based on an ethnographic study of young people going in for three activities preceding possible treatment with fixed appliances. The aim is to analyze how orthodontists, young people, their parents and materiality interact, create divergences and establish norms. In Sweden, more than one in four young people undergo treatment with fixed appliances. The treatment is subsidized by the state before the age of 20. According to the Swedish Council on Health Technology Assessment, the most common reasons for treatment concern esthetics and life enhancement. A paradox is that orthodontics offers esthetic services, but at the same time has to deal with increased dissatisfaction and demand on the part of young people and their parents. The analysis shows that esthetic notions are made into scientific objects and appearances work as a ‘boundary object’ in coordinating orthodontists’, young people’s and parents’ actions in reaching the goal of an improved bite. French science historian Georges Canguilhem argues that a human characteristic is not normal because it is frequent, but frequent because it is normative in a given life context. The orthodontic network reinforces and upholds what I conceptualize as ‘the exceptional normal’. The perfect bite becomes what is most often aspired to and, thus, the norm.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
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Other Social Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-119860OAI: diva2:827487
Socialantropologiska årskonferensen, Linköpings universitet, Sverige 3-5 april, 2014
Förhandlingar om normer och ideal i tandregleringspraktiken, Vetenskapsrådet postdoc
Swedish Research Council, Dnr 435-2011-1220
Available from: 2015-06-27 Created: 2015-06-27 Last updated: 2015-08-13Bibliographically approved

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Wickström, Anette
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Department of Child StudiesFaculty of Arts and Sciences
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