The study, published in the International Journal of Dental Hygiene, has found that teenagers who stay up late are up to almost four times as likely to suffer from tooth decay than those who like to get their heads down early.
Researchers believe the increased risk is due to night owls neglecting to brush their teeth regularly before bed and frequently skipping breakfast, which leads to snacking throughout the day.
Leading health charity, the Oral Health Foundation, is encouraging parents to ensure their children understand the importance of brushing their teeth before bed and the wider impact tooth decay could have if they fail to do so.
Dr Nigel Carter OBE, CEO of the Oral Health Foundation said: ‘If you tend to fall asleep before your children evidence suggests there is a real danger that they are not brushing their teeth regularly, or properly.
‘Combined with the resulting lie-in and subsequently skipping breakfast, this is a real recipe for disaster when it comes to their oral health and a hugely increased risk of developing tooth decay.
‘Problems in the mouth can affect the way our children communicate, their relationships, development and also their wider general health, so it is vital that they prioritise their oral health.
‘We are encouraging parents to be aware of their children’s oral health habits, even when they are not looking, and try to reinforce the importance of brushing their teeth last thing at night for two minutes with a fluoride toothpaste as well as at one other time during the day.’
Michaela ONeill, president of the British Society of Dental Hygiene and Therapy (BSDHT), added: ‘Ensuring your children eat a well-balanced breakfast every day is also a great way to ensure they maintain their oral health, this will reduce snacking on sugary food throughout the day and the teeth coming under constant attack from the acids which cause tooth decay.’
The researchers conclude that a patient’s circadian rhythm should be considered when planning oral health education for adolescents with a high risk of caries.
The study can be viewed here.