Ask the Dentist: Night-owl teens at greater risk of tooth decay

Dentist Lucy Stock of Gentle Dental Care in Belfast says that if your child is a night owl, their teeth may be at risk

A recent study found that adolescents who prefer to stay up late at night are at a significantly higher risk of tooth decay

WHAT time do your children go to bed? If they like to stay up past your bedtime new research suggest that they could be up to almost four times as likely to suffer from tooth decay.

The study, published in the International Journal of Dental Hygiene, found that adolescents who prefer to stay up late at night are at a significantly higher risk of tooth decay.

Some children were up to four times as likely to have tooth decay than those who preferred to get their heads down early.

Researchers believe the increased risk is due to night owls neglecting to brush their teeth regularly before bed and frequently skipping breakfast, leading to snacking throughout the day.

Leading health charity the Oral Health Foundation is encouraging parents to ensure their children understand the importance of brushing their teeth before bed and the wider impact tooth decay could have if they fail to do so.

Its CEO Nigel Carter said: "If you tend to fall asleep before your children, evidence suggests there is a real danger that they are not brushing their teeth regularly, or properly.

"Combined with the resulting lie-in and subsequently skipping breakfast, this is a real recipe for disaster when it comes to their oral health and a hugely increased risk of developing tooth decay.

"Problems in the mouth can affect the way our children communicate, their relationships, development and also their wider general health, so it is vital that they prioritise their oral health.

"We are encouraging parents to be aware of their children's oral health habits and try to reinforce the importance of brushing their teeth last thing at night for two minutes with a fluoride toothpaste as well as at one other time during the day."

Tooth decay happens when the enamel and dentine of a tooth become softened by acid attack after you have eaten anything containing sugars and are not cleaning your teeth properly. Over time, the acid makes a hole in the tooth.

"Ensuring your children eat a well-balanced breakfast every day is also a great way to ensure they maintain their oral health as this will reduce snacking on sugary food throughout the day," Michaela ONeill, president of the British Society of Dental Hygiene and Therapy, said.


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