2009 - 2010 Undergraduate Research in Nutrition and Food Science
Background: Poor dental hygiene, late nights studying and participating in social activities, and increased consumption of sugary beverages, bottled water, coffee, energy drinks and alcohol, often lead to an increase in dental caries and other oral health problems, such as gingivitis, during the college years. Poor dental health in the young adult stage can cause serious systemic diseases and future health problems, such as diabetes, miscarriages during pregnancy, heart disease and cancers.
Subjects/setting: Anonymous surveys were distributed to students asking questions about their dental health history, how frequently they have visited their dentists, whether they consume certain beverages like sugared drinks, coffee and alcohol, and if so, how much. General questions on dental health behaviors were also asked.
Results: This study had 200 total participants, 71 males (average age 20.61 ± 1.52) and 129 female (average age 20.52 ± 1.38) undergraduate students, completed the survey. Students who reported less than 5 caries were 78 % of the males and 77% of females and 28.17% of males and 22.48% of females have been diagnosed with new cavities since entering college. Males who consume alcohol made up 73.24% with an average of 3.86 ± 2.77 days a week and 78.30 % of females reported drinking alcohol 2.76 ± 2.58 days a week. Of those consuming alcohol 66.67% of females and 74.65% of males reported neglecting to brush their teeth after drinking. The average number of times college students see a dentist is 2.57 ± 0.66 for females and 2.27 ± 0.76 for males. The favored water choice is bottled (40.85% males and 40.30% females) over tap water and 70.42% of males and 66.67% of females drink sugared beverages at least once a day.
Conclusion: There are many factors contributing to the growing number of cavities and dental problems seen in college students, however, this study found that students at the University of Kentucky's main factor in increasing dental caries in college is the consumption of alcohol more than two days a week. College students need to be better educated on the importance of regular visits to the dentist and proper dental hygiene as it is a major factor to an overall healthy body.