Study: Swedish adolescents have poor oral hygiene

Seven out of eight adolescents in Sweden have unacceptable oral hygiene, increasing the risk of future dental problems, according to a new study from the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg (Swedish Dental Journal, 2009, Vol. 33, pp.131-140).

The study examined 500 randomly selected adolescents from Västra Götaland (Fyrbodal and Skaraborg).

"On average, these adolescents had plaque on half of all tooth surfaces, which is certainly too much," said doctoral student Jessica Skoog Ericsson. "Seven out of eight adolescents had more plaque than is currently deemed acceptable."

Gingivitis was also identified as a common problem resulting from poor oral hygiene.

The study shows that the vast majority of adolescents (76%) brush their teeth at least twice a day. And while 4% of adolescents also use dental floss daily, just as many don't clean their teeth at all some days.

"There may be some who are less than honest and say that they brush their teeth more regularly than they actually do, but other studies have shown that adolescents do generally brush their teeth on a regular basis," said Kajsa Henning Abrahamsson, a senior lecturer in odontology at the academy. "Poor oral hygiene is probably therefore due to them not brushing correctly and not using dental floss."

Oral hygiene was slightly worse among the males in the study, and the adolescents from Skaraborg had, on average, less plaque and gingivitis than those in Fyrbodal. However, socioeconomic factors, based on an index of the dental practice to which the adolescents belong in the region, had no impact on adolescents' oral hygiene.

This is not the first scientific study to show poor oral hygiene among Swedish adolescents, the researchers noted.

"It is lamentable that so many adolescents have poor oral hygiene despite considerable investment in information and preventive measures," concluded Abrahamsson. "The dental profession as a whole now needs to look at the reasons why we are not getting through better to this group."

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