Objective assessment of the contribution of dental esthetics and facial attractiveness in men via eye tracking

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Introduction:Recently, greater emphasis has been placed on smile esthetics in dentistry. Eye tracking has been used to objectively evaluate attention to the dentition (mouth) in female models with different levels of dental esthetics quantified by the aesthetic component of the Index of Orthodontic Treatment Need (IOTN). This has not been accomplished in men. Our objective was to determine the visual attention to the mouth in men with different levels of dental esthetics (IOTN levels) and background facial attractiveness, for both male and female raters, using eye tracking.Methods:Facial images of men rated as unattractive, average, and attractive were digitally manipulated and paired with validated oral images, IOTN levels 1 (no treatment need), 7 (borderline treatment need), and 10 (definite treatment need). Sixty-four raters meeting the inclusion criteria were included in the data analysis. Each rater was calibrated in the eye tracker and randomly viewed the composite images for 3 seconds, twice for reliability.Results:Reliability was good or excellent (intraclass correlation coefficients, 0.6-0.9). Significant interactions were observed with factorial repeated-measures analysis of variance and the Tukey-Kramer method for density and duration of fixations in the interactions of model facial attractiveness by area of the face (P <0.0001, P <0.0001, respectively), dental esthetics (IOTN) by area of the face (P <0.0001, P <0.0001, respectively), and rater sex by area of the face (P = 0.0166, P = 0.0290, respectively). For area by facial attractiveness, the hierarchy of visual attention in unattractive and attractive models was eye, mouth, and nose, but for men of average attractiveness, it was mouth, eye, and nose. For dental esthetics by area, at IOTN 7, the mouth had significantly more visual attention than it did at IOTN 1 and significantly more than the nose. At IOTN 10, the mouth received significantly more attention than at IOTN 7 and surpassed the nose and eye. These findings were irrespective of facial attractiveness levels. For rater sex by area in visual density, women showed significantly more attention to the eyes than did men, and only men showed significantly more attention to the mouth over the nose.Conclusions:Visual attention to the mouth was the greatest in men of average facial attractiveness, irrespective of dental esthetics. In borderline dental esthetics (IOTN 7), the eye and mouth were statistically indistinguishable, but in the most unesthetic dental attractiveness level (IOTN 10), the mouth exceeded the eye. The most unesthetic malocclusion significantly attracted visual attention in men. Male and female raters showed differences in their visual attention to male faces. Laypersons gave significant visual attention to poor dental esthetics in men, irrespective of background attractiveness; this was counter to what was seen in women.

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