Teenagers aren’t known for being a smiley bunch, but they may have good reason for hiding their pearly whites. Nearly one in five Grade 8 students in Ontario shows evidence of damage to his or her front teeth, according to a new University of Toronto study.
The study is the first of dental injury in Ontario, says David Locker, a professor with the U of T Faculty of Dentistry. Similar studies have been done in other countries because tooth trauma has such a long-lasting effect on an individual’s dental health. “Although a broken tooth can be treated, there’s a likelihood you’ll need to repeat that treatment every 10 years,” says Locker. The cost of initial treatment can be quite high, depending on the injury, and the lifetime cost is estimated to be as much as $250,000 for four teeth.
Locker and his research team examined a random sample of 14-year-olds in schools served by six Ontario public health departments. Almost one in five teens showed evidence of tooth damage; six per cent exhibited severe damage with teeth broken or knocked out. They also found that youths who had problems with cavities also tended to have tooth injuries.
The team’s next task will be to determine the causes of the teen tooth trauma, including such potential culprits as hockey injuries and family violence, and where the injuries take place. “We want to determine how many of these injuries are preventable and how we can prevent them,” says Locker.