The ‘forgotten’ generationUncategorised
Posted by: The Probe 10th May 2020
There is no doubt that childhood tooth decay is an exceptionally hot topic in dentistry, and rightly so. The number of children aged 10 and under who are having their teeth extracted under general anaesthetic due to decay has reached extreme levels. Consequently, programmes and initiatives have been put in place to help improve the oral health of children in the UK as a matter of considerable urgency. However, we must not forget about those that are reaching the end of their childhood and are beginning to strike out on their own.
Both children and adolescents are often considered as one age group. However, the experiences and obstacles faced by older teenagers are very different to those of small children and in certain circumstances, it is easy to see how these young people might feel part of a ‘forgotten’ generation. No longer under the direct supervision of their parents, youths or teenagers are no longer children but equally, they are not yet adults either. It can be both a confusing and an exciting time with increased freedom and independence, yet it also comes with the added responsibility for their own health. Similarly, both social and biological changes emerge rapidly at this stage of life, and the needs of young people are very different from both children and adults as far as their general and oral health is concerned.
As we are all very well aware, the later teenage years are a time for experimentation, but are also a time when people are susceptible to the influences of their peers. When it comes to decision-making, teenagers are often focused on their peers’ behaviour due to the fear of being socially excluded. They are less able to cope with negative evaluations from their friends or exercise self-regulation. As a result, they are more likely to engage in risky behaviour to achieve peer-related rewards and to prevent social exclusion. For example, researchers have found that adolescents were more likely to engage in risky driving when they knew they were being observed by their friends than when they were alone. Certainly, due to a lower resistance to peer pressure, many young people respond to the short-term benefits of risky choices over the value of safe alternatives. As a result, they are more prone to accidents and injuries as well as consequences that have the potential to affect their long-term health.
During these influential years, many young people can fall victim to alcohol and illegal substance abuse as well as nicotine. Indeed, around 90 per cent of people who become addicted to cigarettes do so before the age of 18. On a positive note, pregnancies in under 18s has steadily declined over recent years due to improved contraceptive use. However, most diagnoses of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are in younger people (under 25). Unfortunately, the UK also has some of the highest rates of obesity in 15 to 19 year olds. Young people can be inclined to make unhealthy dietary choices: selecting highly processed convenience foods, confectionary or snacks to eat on the go, rather than regular nutritious meals, fruit and vegetables. Equally, with an increased interest in their appearance they may adopt faddy eating plans or crash diets that can easily develop into an eating disorder. Highly sugary carbonated drinks and energy drinks that claim to boost performance, fight fatigue or enhance concentration are also popular with teenagers. Yet as dental professionals know, these cause significantly more damage than good.
With this in mind, teenagers and adolescents are very likely to have an increased risk of dental caries, traumatic injury and acid erosion. Additionally, the rise in sex hormones that occurs during this critical time of life, can put teenagers at greater risk of developing periodontal disease. For obvious reasons, sound advice and education to help young people to preserve and maintain good oral health are especially important, as healthy habits created during these formative years can last them a lifetime. Nevertheless, it often requires a unique approach to encourage these patients to take oral hygiene seriously, and to keep them motivated. Young people are attracted to modern technology for quick convenience and instant results, so the Waterpik® Sonic-Fusion® Water Flossing toothbrush is the ideal product to engage and interest them. This innovative dental device makes brushing and flossing easy and effective plus, it has been accredited by the Oral Health Foundation. The Waterpik® Sonic-Fusion® is a masterpiece in advanced technology and it is clinically proven to be twice as effective as traditional brushing and flossing. It removes plaque and improves gum health leaving patients with a cleaner, healthier mouth as well as brighter teeth.
Following your professional advice and recommendations, older teenagers and adolescents can gain from the positive effects of a good oral hygiene routine with confidence and life-long benefits. You have the power to help young people to achieve so much and not to feel forgotten, but part of a healthy generation.
Waterpik® products are available from Amazon and
in store or online at Asda, Boots and Superdrug.
 NHS Digital. NHS Outcomes Framework. 3.7.ii Tooth extractions due to decay for children admitted as inpatients to hospital, aged 10 years and under. Feb 2019. https://files.digital.nhs.uk/1B/D277E8/NHSOF_3.7.ii_I02014_Q.pdf [Accessed 26th February 2020]
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