Often criticised for a range of financial and social impacts, regular excessive drinking may be playing havoc with our oral health – especially among 18-29 year olds, new research from the Australian Dental Association (ADA) and Oral-B suggests.
The hidden cost of Australia’s drinking culture was revealed in a survey of 400 young Australians* which has been released today at the start of Dental Health Week.
The Oral-B ADA Dental Health Report revealed that amongst 18-29 year old Australians who drink regularly almost half (46%) will consume five or more drinks per session. As many as three quarters of those admit to not always brushing their teeth after a night on the booze – despite 60% saying they experience a ‘furry’ sensation on their teeth after such an occasion (a tell-tale sign of plaque build-up).
Very few (15%) young Aussie drinkers are concerned about the potential damage the binge might have caused their teeth after a night out. They are simply more worried about how they feel (68%), how much money they spent (66%) or what they might have said or done (33%).
Chairman of the ADA Oral Health Committee, Dr. Peter Alldritt says: “As our teeth are hard-wearing, we often neglect them in favour of caring for other parts of our bodies which show more immediate or obvious effects from drinking. This would include things like our weight, skin and liver. In the 18-29 year old age group, where drinking is more common, it’s even more important to be aware of the dangers to teeth and gums.”
“Our focus for this year’s Dental Health Week is on raising awareness of the importance of oral health amongst this age group,” he added.
When it comes to the impact of alcohol on health and wellbeing, oral health was not a major concern for most young Australians. Key concerns for this age group were weight gain (50%), vital organs such as lungs, kidneys and liver (46%), and their skin (26%).
And it’s not just alcoholic drinks that are causing our teeth grief. Our young nation has a fetish for fizz, sugar and caffeine – all of which can have a detrimental impact on oral health if preventative measures aren’t undertaken. Over a third of young adults (34%) have a daily cup of coffee, and almost half (47%) have a soft drink, cordial, sports drink or juice on most days of the week.
ADA member and Oral-B spokesperson Dr. Christopher Ho warns that many Australians do so without taking precautionary measures such as rinsing after one of these drinks. “One of the best ways to minimise the damage to the teeth caused by soft drinks, sports drinks and juices, is simply using a straw! However the research suggests that only 4% of young Australians always take this precaution.”
One in ten young Australians also mistakenly believe that diet soft drinks are better for their teeth than regular soft drinks, but Dr. Christopher Ho explains why this may not be the case. “All fizzy drinks are highly acidic and this can cause real and permanent damage to the teeth. While diet soft drinks might be lower in calories, the same risk to oral health is present.”
It’s little wonder that the majority of young Aussies (65%) admit to feeling anxious when visiting the dentist!
Dr. Christopher Ho provides his top tips for taking care of your teeth if you are having a night out:
Brush twice a day for two minutes, using a good quality toothbrush and paste. Power toothbrushes that use an oscillating-rotating technology are proven to be more effective than those that move from side to side
If drinking alcohol at parties, minimise the amount of sugary drinks by opting for soda as a mixer rather than soft drink. Also, drink a glass of water in between alcoholic drinks as this will rinse away the acid that causes tooth erosion. As alcohol can also dehydrate your body, drinking water will help stop the mouth from getting dehydrated. When we are dehydrated there is less saliva to neutralise acids which can lead to tooth erosion
If you’re only a short walk or cab ride from home, be sure to allow at least 60 minutes between your last drink and brushing your teeth. Brushing your teeth too soon can damage the softened tooth enamel caused by acidity in drinks consumed during the evening
*The study was conducted online by Galaxy Research, among a representative sample of 1,008 Australians aged 18-64 years, including 400 18-29 year olds. This press release specifically focuses on the 18-29 year olds.
The sample was distributed throughout Australia including both capital city and non-capital city areas. Following the completion of interviewing, the data was weighted by age, gender and area to reflect the latest population estimates.