TOKYO, Japan: A study of Japanese high school students has found that those suffering from internet addiction are more likely to have dental caries or missing teeth. The study aimed to fill a gap in the research pertaining to the relationship between internet use and oral health in adolescents, and it found that unhealthy lifestyle behaviours related to internet addiction have a direct effect on the prevalence of caries.
Of the 1,526 high school students who participated in the cross-sectional study, more than one-quarter (26%) were classified as suffering from internet addiction, according to the results of self-administered internet addiction tests. The researchers found that those having internet addiction had a higher number of teeth that were decayed or missing and a higher number of permanent teeth with dental restorations.
Internet addiction in the sample group was associated with unhealthy lifestyle factors such as short sleep duration, late evening snacking, irregular mealtimes and frequent consumption of soft drinks and sweet foods. Additionally, those having internet addiction were found to brush their teeth less frequently and to skip toothbrushing before bed.
Speculating that adolescents having internet addiction skimp on oral care in order to maximise their internet use, the researchers said: “Our study results indicate that [internet addiction] is a barrier to maintaining good oral hygiene.”
The researchers explained: “Poor oral hygiene accelerates dental plaque accumulation and bacterial activity in dental plaque, which results in dental caries development and progression. Overall, one potential reason for the higher prevalence of dental caries among the study participants who suffered from [internet addiction] was the loss of dental plaque control, which was associated with unhealthy lifestyle behaviour.”
It was unclear whether the research findings could be applied to other prefectures in Japan, the researchers said, noting also that longitudinal studies were required to assess the effect of internet addiction on caries.
The study, titled “Associations among internet addiction, lifestyle behaviors, and dental caries among high school students in Southwest Japan”, was published in the open access journal Scientific Reports on 15 October 2022.