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The hidden dangers of computer gaming for children’s teeth

Recently published findings from a study released by the Oral Health Foundation have revealed that there is a direct link between the amount of time teenagers spend on the computer use each day and the risk of poor oral health.

Scientists surveyed the computer and oral health habits of a 1,500 18-year-olds and discovered a clear cause and effect relationship between those who spend longer gaming and those who experienced dental health issues.

One of the main factors that researchers identified is that those who spend longer periods of time on a computer tend to neglect brushing their teeth, flossing and visiting the dentist. The survey drew attention to the fact that the phenomenon was more prominent among boys, where it was observed that twice-daily brushing for those with excessive computer use dropped below 50%.

It was also noted that youngsters with excessive computer use are up to 25% more likely to suffer from bleeding gums, as well as being almost twice as likely to miss school because of dental pain. This supports other research which has already concluded that extreme computer gaming could potentially have a significant impact on education and even future opportunities.

While educational programmes promoting healthy lifestyles have made great progress over recent years, the results clearly highlight the need for more education about the specific dangers of excessive computer use among children and young adults.

Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive 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.

“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.”

Another key finding of the study was related to snacking and sugar consumption, something that we looked at in our previous blog post exploring the relationship between diet and oral health.

The study found that young people who spent three or more hours on a computer per day were likely to consume considerably more sugar than their peers. Researchers noted that the amount and frequency of fizzy drinks, juices with added sugar and snacking were all cause for concern. The potential health problems are compounded by the fact that excessive gamers were also more likely to skip breakfast and eat less fruit and vegetables, increasing the risk of wider reaching health problems.

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 meal times, 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.”

Latest figures indicate that despite huge advances being made 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 oral health for you or your family, don’t hesitate to call the team at Stella Maris at any time and we will be happy to help. To speak to a member of the team now or book an appointment with one of our expert dentists, call today on 0121 588 4541



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