how the pandemic has affected adolescents

“Brush your teeth”. How many times mum and dad have to remind the child of this fundamental practice to keep the mouth healthy, obviously together with regular checks! Then, when one becomes a teenager, the habit of brushing, toothpaste, interdental brushes and dental floss should be acquired. But in recent times, due to a pandemic, among teen-agers (and not only) there has been a decrease in self-care.

Consequence: the smile risks more. This situation is highlighted by research conducted by Laboratorio Adolescenza, a non-profit association that promotes and disseminates study and research on adolescents, in collaboration with the Department of Biomedical, Surgical and Dental Sciences of the University of Milan. The answers were given by a sample of 3,000 Italian adolescents from lower and upper secondary schools, between March and April 2021.

Few meetings, less attention

Attention to aesthetics and the need to meet others by opening the mouth wide in a wide smile and with a fresh breath are the two springs that push towards careful oral hygiene, especially at a young age. But the Covid-19 pandemic, as we all know, has heavily changed the opportunities for exchange and socializing.

So also the white teeth and the good breath have been put, albeit unconsciously, often in the background. The analysis shows that in 2020, in a pre-Covid situation, 64% of adolescents declared that they always wanted white teeth and good breath, while 34% treated their teeth to prevent more specific problems.

The social distancing of 2021, however, led to a significant decrease in oral hygiene among the young people interviewed: only 7% of adolescents brushed their teeth after every meal and many stopped using tools, such as dental floss or mouthwash. proper oral hygiene. Compared to 2020, young people have reduced the use of mouthwash (54%), brush (15%) and dental floss (29%).

Teenagers rely almost exclusively on toothbrushes and toothpaste for their oral hygiene. The survey also revealed that girls are more likely to maintain good oral hygiene: 62% of the teenagers interviewed brush their teeth after breakfast. On the contrary, among the boys we find a lower percentage, with only 55%. Despite the social distancing and the obligation of masks, girls care a lot morenot only of aesthetics, but also of oral prevention.

Few checks, more alibis

“In the last 2 years, Covid-19 has been the most common alibi of adolescents to justify the missed appointments for general dental check-ups, for which the attendance of the dentist has essentially concentrated on the interventions of absolute necessity, unfortunately leaving out the programs of oral-dental prevention – underlines Giampietro Farronato, professor at the University of Milan. In addition, due to the pandemic emergency, there has been an increasing number of adolescents with problems with the oral cavitycaused by the decreased frequency and time of tooth brushing “.

Possible countermeasures? Remind young people that the problem is not only aesthetic but also health. In addition to providing some simple advice, from regular visits to the dentist to paying attention to too sugary foods (risk of stains on the teeth) and careful removal of food accumulation if there is an orthodontic appliance. And then … then you have to keep in mind that the teeth must be brushed carefully and not in a hurry at least three times a day. For your own well-being.

“Teeth brushing has for adolescents – as they themselves affirmed in our investigations – a predominantly cosmetic value and linked to social relationships, rather than to health effects – notes Maurizio Tucci, president of Laboratorio Adolescenza. In the pandemic year, social restrictions and the use of masks played a primary role in reducing the daily frequency of tooth brushing: it will be interesting to observe, through the 2022 survey that we have in the pipeline, how the phenomenon will evolve “.

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