Purpose: The present study was primarily carried out to assess the severity of malocclusion and treatment needs of 14- to 15-year-old schoolchildren of Bangalore, India, using the Dental Aesthetic Index (DAI) and to correlate them with the subjective perception of aesthetics, function, speech and treatment needs. Methods: A total of 1618 students aged 14 to 15 years, who were randomly selected from 40 government and private schools, were included in the present study. The subjects were asked about their self-perception of malocclusion using a structured questionnaire. A Likert scale was used to assess their perception. They were then subjected to a clinical examination, wherein the malocclusion and the treatment needs were assessed using the DAI. The data were analysed using the SPSS version 10 statistical package. Results: Most of the subjects were satisfied with the arrangement of their teeth. Weak but statistically significant correlations were found between all of the variables (P < 0.01). Correlation was found to be greater between aesthetics and speech (r = 0.489; P < 0.01), aesthetics and the DAI component (r = 0.342; P < 0.01), and subjectively and objectively perceived treatment needs (r = 0.476; P < 0.01). There was no significant difference observed between the children in private and government schools (P > 0.05). Aesthetics was the most common reason for seeking treatment. Conclusions: Most of the subjects were satisfied with the appearance of their teeth, masticatory function and speech. The perception of dissatisfaction with dental appearance increased with increasing severity of malocclusion. However, the same did not apply for masticatory function and speech. Self-perception of treatment need was low.
Keywords: Dental Aesthetic Index, malocclusion, subjective perceptions