The rise of the screens


  Posted by: Dental Design      9th July 2023

Most of the population is guilty of spending too much time in front of a screen – indeed, a recent survey found that approximately 50% of adult Britons have a screen time of around 11 hours or more per day.[i] This has been exacerbated by the pandemic and, according to researchers, continues to rise.i However, it’s difficult to ascertain the true number of hours spent in front of a screen, as many individuals use various devices simultaneously.

Whether it’s scrolling through social media on a mobile phone or tablet, watching TV or working all day at a computer, screen time can have potentially adverse effects on health. As screens dominate so many areas of our lives, it’s important to consider the ways it can influence our wellbeing.

Screens and eye health

‘Computer vision syndrome’ (CVS) describes a range of eye issues that occur due to excessive screen time. Research has postulated that common symptoms include eye strain, blurred vision, dry eyes, neck/shoulder pain and headaches.[ii] For those who work with computers, and even children who use electronic devices, CVS is a potential risk. CVS occurs as your eyes repeat the same motion, continuously focusing and refocusing, requiring extensive effort from your eye muscles. To reduce the risk of CVS, those who work with computers should employ the 20-20-20 rule – to prevent dry eyes, try and take breaks from looking at your screen every 20 minutes, and look at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.[iii] There are also adjustments that can be made to your working environment and computer to help reduce strain, such as positioning yourself around 20 to 40 inches from your screen – if you’re unable to do this, at least make sure you’re in a comfortable position. To avoid screen reflection, try and reduce the glare by moving the device away from overhead lighting and/or sunlight.iii

Sedentary lifestyle

Excessive screen time has been associated with obesity, in addition to social behaviour problems, poor physical fitness and poor academic achievement.[iv] High levels of screen time has also been correlated with anxiety and depression.[v] Why is this? It’s unsurprising that excessive screen time promotes sedentary behaviour, which in turn may encourage poor lifestyle choices. In children and adolescents especially, low levels of physical activity combined with high levels of screen time may result in a low life satisfaction and poor mental wellbeing.[vi] It’s safe to say that most young individuals have access to a digital device of some kind – indeed, by the age of seven, it’s believed that 53% of children in the UK have a mobile phone.[vii] Out of a study of 2,167 children, between five- and 16-years-old, 57% slept with their mobile phone beside their bed.vii It’s important that all individuals prioritise a physical activity of some kind regularly, and avoid too much time spent in front of the TV, on a mobile phone, computer or any other type of electronic device.

Oral health and sleep

The links between screen time and oral health may not be obvious, but research has established links between early exposure to screens, in addition to long-term use, and poor oral hygiene in children.[viii] Similarly, a survey of 1,611 18-year-olds found that excessive computer use was linked to oral hygiene neglect and poor dietary choices.[ix] This may be due to the increase in consumption of sugary and fatty foods, often associated as a result of excessive screen time.ix Another study, conducted in Korea (where internet usage is incredibly high), found that those who use the internet very frequently may experience sleep deprivation, which could promote poor oral hygiene habits. As a result, issues such as plaque accumulation and oral disease such as periodontitis can occur.[x] 

As you know, a thorough oral hygiene routine is the key to maintaining a healthy oral cavity, and while you cannot always influence your patients’ screen time habits, you can promote healthier behaviours around oral health. For example, you could recommend the Waterpik® Water Flosser to your patients – a simple, easy-to-use tool to keep the mouth free from debris and bacteria. Compared to string floss, the Waterpik® Water Flosser is up to 50% more effective for improving gum health.[xi] It is also significantly more effective at improving gingival health versus interdental brushes.[xii] Patients need only use it for 1 minute a day to feel the full benefits, making it simple to blend in with patients’ at home oral hygiene habits.

The rise of screens

Screens are ubiquitous in modern-day life – while they prove invaluable in many ways, certain health risks should be heeded. As a dental professional, you can help your patients protect their oral health with tried and trusted advice, guidance and high-quality product recommendations.

For more information on Waterpik® Water Flosser products visit Waterpik® products are available from Amazon, Costco UK, Argos, Boots, Superdrug and Tesco online and in stores across the UK and Ireland.


Join the 3,000+ dental teams who have already benefitted from a professional WaterpikÒ Lunch & Learn. Book your free session for 1 hour of verifiable CPD and a free WaterpikÒ Water Flosser – available either face to face or as a webinar – at

Alison Reid RDH GDC 5615 

Qualified from Dundee dental hospital with dip dental hygiene 1999

Qualified dental nurse NEBN 

Scotvec Assessor for dental nurses 

Professional educator for WaterPik

During my career I have worked in varying sectors of dentistry from NHS, community care/hospital,  Private and corporate.  My career has allowed me travel from my home area of Inverness in the Scottish Highlands to London. My strong passion for dentistry is to help support not only my patient’s journeys but also colleagues including trainees newly qualified and qualified a like. My aim is to encouraged and support others by my own development passing on skills and knowledge.

[i] Clayton, R. and Clayton, C. (2022). UK screen use in 2022: A need for guidance. [online] Available at: [Accessed 3 Feb. 2023].

[ii] Randolph, S.A. (2017). Computer Vision Syndrome. Workplace Health & Safety, [online] 65(7), pp.328–328. Available at: [Accessed 3 Feb. 2023].

[iii] NHS SBS. (n.d.). Working from home and looking after your eyes. [online] Available at: [Accessed 3 Feb. 2023].

[iv] LeBlanc, A.G., Gunnell, K.E., Prince, S.A., Saunders, T.J., Barnes, J.D. and Chaput, J.-P. (2017). The Ubiquity of the Screen: An Overview of the Risks and Benefits of Screen Time in Our Modern World. Translational Journal of the American College of Sports Medicine, [online] 2(17), pp.104–113. Available at:  [Accessed 3 Feb. 2023].

[v] Wu, X., Tao, S., Zhang, Y., Zhang, S. and Tao, F. (2015). Low Physical Activity and High Screen Time Can Increase the Risks of Mental Health Problems and Poor Sleep Quality among Chinese College Students. PLOS ONE, [online] 10(3), p.e0119607. Available at: [Accessed 3 Feb. 2023].

[vi] Khan, A., Lee, E.-Y., Rosenbaum, S., Khan, S.R. and Tremblay, M.S. (2021). Dose-dependent and joint associations between screen time, physical activity, and mental wellbeing in adolescents: an international observational study. The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health, [online] 5(10). Available at: [Accessed 3 Feb. 2023].

[vii] (n.d.). By the age of seven, 53% of the children in the UK own a mobile phone | YouGov. [online] Available at: [Accessed 3 Feb. 2023].

[viii] Yilmaz, N. and Avci, G. (2022). Exposure to screen time and dental neglect. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, [online] 58(10), pp.1855–1861. Available at: [Accessed 3 Feb. 2023].

[ix] Olczak‐Kowalczyk, D., Tomczyk, J., Gozdowski, D. and Kaczmarek, U. (2019). Excessive computer use as an oral health risk behaviour in 18‐year‐old youths from Poland: A cross‐sectional study. Clinical and Experimental Dental Research, [online] 5(3), pp.284–293. Available at: [Accessed 3 Feb. 2023].

[x] Do, K.-Y. and Lee, K.-S. (2018). Relationship between Problematic Internet Use, Sleep Problems, and Oral Health in Korean Adolescents: A National Survey. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, [online] 15(9), p.1870. Available at: [Accessed 3 Feb. 2023].

[1] The Effect of Interdental Cleaning Devices on Plaque Biofilm and Gingival Bleeding – Rosema NAM et al. The effect of different interdental cleaning devices on gingival bleeding. J Int Acad Periodontol 2011; 13(1):2-10

[xii] Water Flosser compared to Interdental Brush on Bleeding Scores and Gingival Abrasion – Slot DE, Lyle DM, Van der Sluijs E, Hennequin-Hoenderdos N, Van der Weijden F. J Dent Res 2018; 97(Special Iss. B): Abstract #0622 ( Conducted at Academic Center for Dentistry Amsterdam (ACTA), Netherlands.

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