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Saturday, 17 March, 2001, 00:54 GMT
Teenage drinking leads to bad teeth
More boys than girls drank alcohol
More boys than girls drank alcohol
Teenagers who drink large quantities of alcohol are risking their teeth.

A study of the dietary habits of over 400 14-year olds in Birmingham found those who drank heavily were more likely to suffer from dental erosion.

This is a chemical dissolving of the teeth which first affects the enamel and then the dentine underneath.

The threat can be minimised by good dental hygiene, including brushing the teeth twice a day to remove traces of acid.

The condition was also linked to a high intake of acidic foods and drinks, including fizzy drinks, fruit, and ketchup and to vitamin C tablets.


There was a significant link between alcohol consumption in 14-year-olds and dental erosion

Dr Linda Shaw,
Birmingham University
A vegetarian diet also appeared to put people at risk.

Lead researcher Dr Linda Shaw said patients with bad dental erosion may have to have their teeth crowned.

She had seen children who had exposed the nerve in their tooth because the erosion was so bad.

Irreversible

The effects cannot be reversed.

Dr Shaw said: "Most children weren't aware of the effects of eating acidic foods and drinks."

The researchers found 21% of the teenagers drank some wine and 15% some spirits every week.

But 3% said they drank beer or cider between eight and 21 times a week.

The majority of drinkers were boys, making up 59% of those who drank cider.

Almost 80% of the children who responded to the anonymous survey said they did not consume any drinks at all.

Dr Shaw told BBC News Online: "There was a significant link between alcohol consumption in 14-year-olds and dental erosion."

A spokeswoman for the charity Alcohol Concern said: "Alcohol contributes to a whole range of diseases and young people need to be aware of the harm that alcohol can cause."

Soft drinks

The researchers, from Birmingham University, also looked at consumption of soft drinks and found there was a strong link between dental erosion and the consumption of cola and other fizzy drinks, apple juice, and sports drinks.

Around 80% said they drank orange squash, cola and other fizzy drinks at some point during the week.

Although half had less than seven drinks a week, but 13% had more than 22 drinks in a week.

More boys than girls drank cola.

Fruit, which is acidic, is also linked to dental erosion, but is only a problem if eaten in unusually large amounts.

It was eaten regularly by two thirds of the children. The most common choice was apples.

Vegetarian diets were also highlighted because they tend to contain more acidic items.

But Dr Shaw said: "Vegetarians do consume more fruit and vegetables, but considerably less fizzy drinks, less cola and less alcohol."

After the research was carried out, work on a public health message on dental health for teenagers began.

The study is published in the British Dental Journal.

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See also:

31 Jan 01 | Health
Dental lasers to remove decay
09 Apr 00 | Health
Soft drinks 'good for teeth'
17 May 99 | Health
Dental health drive launched
20 Jan 99 | Health
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