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New figures released today suggest 11 to 15 year olds are seriously putting their oral health at risk by smoking and drinking.

According to research undertaken by the NHS Information Centre, nearly one in two (45%) 11 to 15 year olds consumed alcohol, while more than one in four (27%) admitted to smoking, a figure higher than the number of adults who smoke (21%).

Over half (55%) of respondents deemed it acceptable to try alcohol. Also, over a third (35%) said the same thing about smoking.

Although the publication of these figures represent an improvement over the last 10 years, the British Dental Health Foundation believes they still show cause for concern.

Chief executive, Dr Nigel Carter, issued a stark warning to parents and children putting their oral health at risk: ‘If you smoke, you are at a higher risk of developing gum disease, the most common cause of tooth loss in adults. Smoking and alcohol are also the two predominant causes of mouth cancer and when combined they increase the risk of getting the disease by up to 30 times.

‘These figures are clearly a cause for concern, as guidelines suggest men should not consume more than 21 units a week and women no more than 14 units a week. The survey reveals the average for this age group was 12.9 units, so even if they if were adults, they are approaching unhealthy levels.

‘Drinking alcohol, particularly to excess, can increase the risk of mouth cancer by four times. The UK has a problem with binge drinking and from an oral health point of view, more must be done to educate this age range on the dangers that poses.’

Dr Carter’s concerns over the high numbers of drinkers is reflected in the figures on smokers, particularly as tobacco use and drinking accounts for around three in every four cases of mouth cancer.


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