How computer gaming could be putting your child’s teeth at risk
August 8th, 2019
New research has discovered that just three hours of computer use each day is enough to put a teenager at risk of poor oral health.
The project looked at a sample of 1,500 18-year-olds and concluded that those who spend more time on computers were significantly more likely to neglect their oral health, resulting in long term implications.
Researchers found young people who spent longer periods of time on a computer were less likely to brush their teeth, floss and visit the dentist – a problem that was particularly prominent in boys, whose twice-daily brushing dropped below 50% for those with excessive computer use.
As well as issues with basic oral hygiene, it was also found that youngsters with excessive computer use are up to 25% more likely to suffer from bleeding gums. Interestingly, they were also almost twice as likely to be absent from school because of dental pain – meaning that there is also a potential impact on their education and even future opportunities.
Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation, believes the results highlight the need for education about the dangers of excessive computer and called for the issue to be included in educational programmes promoting healthy lifestyles.
Dr Carter 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.
“There is an urgent need for more education; both on the consequences of excessive computer use, and the benefits of maintaining good oral hygiene. These need to be communicated to children and families before it begins to negatively affect their health and wellbeing.”
The study also discovered that the longer teenagers spend on a computer, the more sugar they consume. Those spending three or more hours on a computer per day were found to consume considerably more sugar than their peers. Of particular concern was the amount and frequency of fizzy drinks, juices with added sugar and snacking. They were also more likely to skip breakfast and eat less fruit and vegetables. This means that excessive computer use among young people could have other health risks apart from dental health.
According to Dr Carter “Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease for children in the UK and it is caused by having too much sugar.”
“The harm caused by sugar is clear to see. It is resulting in thousands of children across Britain having fillings, and in the worst cases, rotten teeth removed. It’s a heart-breaking situation because the reality is that tooth decay is largely preventable.
“By cutting out snacking and keeping sugar consumption to mealtimes, teeth are able to recover and are far less prone to tooth decay. Replacing sugar with healthier options should also be highly encouraged. Fizzy drinks cause a real risk and should be replaced with milk or water as a tooth-friendly alternative.”
Despite huge advances in both education and dental care over recent decades, nearly a half (46%) of 15-year-olds and a third (34%) of 12-year-olds In England have obvious signs of tooth decay, whilst in the last year alone NHS England has spent more than £50 million extracting children’s teeth.
For more information about children’s oral health, you are encouraged to check out the Teen’s Teeth page run by the Oral Health Foundation. Alternatively, if you are seeking advice about your oral health or the oral health of a child, you can call your dentist at any time and we will be happy to assist and advise. For advice, information or to book an appointment, call now on 01424 713051