Teenager habits revealed

British Dental Health Foundation (BDHF) is calling for teenagers to improve their oral hygiene, after a recent study revealed adolescents who smoke are more likely to abandon the basics, such as brushing their teeth twice a day. On the other hand a Government survey showed that consumption of sugar and confectionary among most age groups is declining.

The research, cited by the BDHF, was published in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology. Many are still unaware of the damage smoking does to the mouth, yet during adolescence, some young people often experiment with smoking and, if continued, can have a detrimental effect on their health. Peer pressure is the single most common reason for adolescents taking up the habit, while According to the Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter, the evidence presented points to a clear gap in oral health education.

Dr Carter said: "It is clear from the findings of the research that this particular age group could potentially have many oral health problems relating to their lifestyle choices. Multiple unhealthy behaviours, particularly at an age when you are still developing, can have a lasting impact. Parents and schools must look to educate young adults and adolescents on the choices they are making and the impact they have, not just on their oral health, but on their general health too. It is not unreasonable to suggest this trend would be reflected throughout the generations, as in general smokers have a greater risk gum disease through poor lifestyle and oral hygiene habits.

A brighter picture comes from the survey into eating habits. Compared with previous surveys, average consumption of sugar and chocolate confectionery was reduced from 30g to 18g per day (39% decrease) for children aged four to 10 years and from 31g to 20g per day (35% decrease) for children aged 11 to 18 years; a lower percentage of children in both age groups were consuming these foods.

The consumption of sugar, preserves and sweet spreads, which includes table sugar, was reduced for all age groups, most noticeably in adults aged 65 years and over, where intakes were reduced from 22g per day to 13g per day. There was little change in the consumption of crisps and savoury snacks except in children aged four to 10 years where intakes were lower than in the previous survey.

Intakes of non-milk extrinsic sugars (NMES) were lower than previous surveys in all age and sex groups, except for women aged 19 to 64 years. Decreases in intake were most marked for children aged four to 10 years where the proportion of food energy from NMES was reduced from 17.1% in 1997 to 14.4%. The major sources of NMES were non-alcoholic beverages, cereals and cereal products and sugar, preserves and confectionery.

Non-alcoholic beverages contributed the largest percentage to NMES intakes for children aged 1.5 to three years and children aged four to 18 years. Not low calorie soft drinks provided 29% of NMES intake for children aged 11 to 18 years compared with 10% for children aged 1.5 to three years and 16% for children aged four to 10 years. This contribution was similar to that in the previous survey for children aged 11 to 18 years. The contribution of fruit juice was highest in children aged 1.5 to three years and decreased with age, providing 15% for children aged 1.5 to three

years, 10-13% for those aged four to 18 years and 8% for adults aged 19 years and over. For younger children aged four to 10 years, the contribution of fruit juice had increased compared with previous surveys, while there was little change in other age groups. For children aged 1.5 to three years, 13% of NMES intake was provided by yogurt, fromage frais and dairy desserts.

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