Forming good habits in independence – Julie Deverick – BSDHTFeatured Products Promotional Features
Posted by: The Probe 17th September 2019
As we head into autumn, it’s time for thousands of individuals to begin higher education. In fact, in 2018 alone, over a quarter of all 18-year-olds from England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland got accepted into universities – record breaking numbers that prove how popular higher education remains for those leaving secondary school.[i]
For many, this is the first chance they get to experience being self-sufficient and away from their parents, allowing them to exercise their freedom, make their own decisions and find their own way through life. Of course, with this big step comes big responsibilities, and it is little surprise that for many of these young adults the shock of having to do their own laundry, buy their own food, budget and pay bills can be a bit of a reality check.
With all of these aspects of life to consider, it’s little surprise that oral health may fall by the wayside, especially as the university lifestyle itself can promote bad habits. When people are given the freedom to eat what they like for the first time it’s inevitably going to lead to a spike in junk food and other treats that they would not have eaten so often at home. A study that recorded the average weight gain experienced by university students during their first year found that an increased intake of sugar and other poor dietary choices were to blame.[ii]Of course, this is bad news for teeth too, as sugar can quickly cause cavities.
What other behaviour do we instantly associate with students? If you answered heavy drinking, you wouldn’t be wrong. Binge drinking is often seen as part of the student experience, and with events such as Fresher’s Week, Carnage (effectively a bar crawl that often lives up to its name), club socials and other reasons to head to the bar, it’s little wonder that alcohol consumption among students is high. According to data gathered by the National Union of Students, as many as 20% of students say that they get drunk on purpose at least once a week. Among this figure 2% say they drink every day and 23% drink heavily 2-3 days a week.[iii]
As well as many alcoholic beverages containing high levels of sugar (a simple Jager Bomb usually contains as much as 21g of sugar!),[iv]excessive consumption has also been proven to alter the oral bacteria, leaving teeth more prone to decay.[v]
So, what can you do as a dental hygienist or dental therapist? It might be worth contacting any nearby universities to see if you can have a stall at Fresher’s Week to help remind students that their oral health is important. It is also a good idea to hold an open day or run promotions for new student patients if possible – by encouraging them to consider their oral health from the start, it’s likely they will form good habits during their time at university which they can continue into graduate life.
Some students may remain registered with their dentist back at home, but this doesn’t mean that you can’t help them through simple awareness. Can you contact medical centres on campus to put up posters? As long as these individuals are getting the care they need, they can enjoy their first breath of freedom away from home without having to worry about their dental health deteriorating.
For more information about the BSDHT, please visit www.bsdht.org.uk
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[i]UCAS. A Record Percentage of Young People Are Off To University. Link: https://www.ucas.com/corporate/news-and-key-documents/news/record-percentage-young-people-are-university[Last accessed June 19].
[ii]Wiles, N., Nakhooda, R. Consumption of Added Sugars Among Undergraduate Students at a South African University and its Association with BMI. South African Journal of Clinical Nutrition, DOI: 10.1080/16070658.2018.1553360
[iii]NUS. New Survey Shows Trends in Student Drinking. Link: https://www.nus.org.uk/en/news/press-releases/new-survey-shows-trends-in-student-drinking/[Last accessed June 19].
[iv]Spark People. Calories in Jager Bomb. Link: https://www.sparkpeople.com/calories-in.asp?food=jager+bomb[Last accessed June 19].
[v]Oral Health Foundation. How Your Favourite Tipple Could Be Changing The Bacteria In Your Mouth…And It’s Not Good News. Link: https://www.dentalhealth.org/news/how-your-favourite-tipple-could-be-changing-the-bacteria-in-your-mouth-and-its-not-good-news[Last accessed June 19].
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