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Is there a link between excessive computer use and poor oral health in teenagers?

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    A recent report from the Oral Health Foundation, considers a study involving more than 1,500 teenagers, the results shows that those who spent longer on the computer were significantly more likely to neglect their oral health.

    By Holly Sumbler

The Review 

In particular, the study revealed:-

  • Those who spent longer on a computer were less likely to brush their teeth, floss and visit the dentist;
  • In boys, twice-daily brushing dropped to below 50% in those who used computers excessively;
  • Teenagers with excessive computer use are up to 25% more likely to suffer from bleeding gums and almost twice as likely to be absent from school because of dental pain.

Dr Carter of the Oral Health Foundation says: “There is growing evidence to suggest that computer use is linked with a number of health problems for teenagers. Much of the attention in the past has focussed on its relationships with obesity, smoking, drinking and changes in behaviour. However, we are now seeing signs that it could affect a person’s oral health as well.

While the internet and computer games can often prove a necessary and important distraction, it is important that children prioritise their health. Brushing for two minutes twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste is the most effective way they can keep their mouth clean and healthy and stay free of dental disease.”

Why and what are the effects?

The study found that the longer teenagers spent in front of a computer screen the more sugar they consumed. It also showed an increase in the amount and frequency of fizzy drinks, juices with added sugar and snacking in those teenagers spending more than three hours a day using a computer.

The results of the study are concerning, especially given that tooth decay is one of the most common chronic diseases in children in the UK. Findings from Public Health England also showed that, from 2015-2016, £50.5 million was spent by the NHS on tooth extraction for patients under the age of 19 and in the majority of those cases the extraction was due to tooth decay.

What can be done?

The report advises that there is an urgent need for more education and to ensure that the benefits of maintaining good oral hygiene are communicated to children and their families. They also suggest cutting down on snacking and trying to keep sugar consumption to mealtimes, as well as replacing fizzy drinks with water or milk.

 

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