Surprising Risk Factor for Dental Cavities

There are many risk factors for developing dental caries, or cavities. Everyone who has teeth is actually at risk for developing tooth decay, but some circumstances can make an individual more susceptible. Common factors include the regular consumption of acidic or sugary foods and beverages that stick to your teeth, frequent snacking or sipping, inadequate dental hygiene, not getting enough fluoride, age, dry mouth, and even regular heartburn. But did you know that your bedtime might also be a risk factor? A recent study found just that.

According to a recent article from the American Academy of Implant Dentistry (AAID), teenagers specifically have a higher risk for dental caries if they stay up late at night. The study involved almost 200 teenagers, ages 15 and 16, who were broken down into 3 basic categories: night owls (37%), morning types (13%) and neutral types (50%). The researchers found that participants who were early-risers (morning types) and those classified as “neutral” usually had breakfast every morning and brushed their teeth the recommended twice a day. The evening types were found to eat breakfast less frequently and didn’t brush their teeth as often. After evaluating the oral health of all the teens, it was determined that the night owl group has a risk that was nearly four times greater as their counterparts for developing cavities.

So what’s the moral of the story? Dentists can use this information when considering the risk factors of their young patients, and use it as a talking point when discussing proper dental hygiene and care. Parents may also find the information helpful. If you have a teenaged child at home, one who often stays up later than you do, consider emphasizing the importance of brushing before bed (no matter how late it is) and be sure they get a good breakfast before heading out the door.

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