|Year : 2012 | Volume
| Issue : 4 | Page : 127-128
Oral health status of the generation Y
Department of Pedodontics, Cariology and Endodontology, University of Oulu, Institute of Dentistry; University Hospital Oulu, Finland
|Date of Web Publication||5-Feb-2013|
POB 5281, 90014 University of Oulu
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
|How to cite this article:|
Anttonen V. Oral health status of the generation Y. Dent Hypotheses 2012;3:127-8
In the industrialized world, caries prevalence has been well documented for decades, and a remarkable decline starting in the 70s and continuing up to the late 1990s has been witnessed. World Health Organization (WHO) set a goal for the mean number of Decayed, Missed and Filled teeth due to dental caries or DMF index value below 2 for 12-year-old by the year 2000. This goal was reached and even exceeded in most developed countries. During the latest decade, however, the decline in caries experience has stabilized at the low caries prevalence level.  It has been even questioned if caries disease has been conquered, and consequently if any effort or resources are needed for oral health promotion among the young anymore. The decline in caries prevalence has been thought to be due to the use of local fluorides, especially tooth paste. Also, fluoridation of drinking water has been shown to be effective. However, after the 1990s, in areas with low caries prevalence, water fluoridation has not been beneficial compared to the basic prevention. 
In any case, dental caries and periodontal diseases affect the vast majority of people across the socioeconomic contexts around the world according to WHO, resulting in infections and tooth loss when inadequately treated. Caries is polarized; i.e., in countries with low caries prevalence, a minority of population carries most of the caries burden. This is a consequence of accumulation of dental caries risk factors among a small population- often among those with low education, low socioeconomic status, leading to unfavorable diet and health behavior. In populations with higher caries experience, the disease is more evenly distributed. Early childhood caries is a problem among children all over the world-in industrialized world, it is experienced by a minority of the age cohortbut in developing countries by an alarmingly high proportion of the children. , As caries history is known to be the strongestpredictor for future caries experience, it can be assumed that caries will be a global health and also economical problem with all its consequences also in decades to come.
There is a concern all over the world about the increasing obesity and high body mass index among the youth. This is a real threat to general as well as oral health. Overweight is due to the diet pattern favoring snacking, which provides foods rich in calories, andis also cariogenic. Another concern is a decrease in daily physical activity; the youth spend hours daily by a monitor be it TV, computer, iPad, or any other electronic device. Snacking is often involved with these activities. The youth of today live in a totally different context compared to their parents, not to mention grandparents-they are aware, they are handy with electronics, and they move, they communicate, they are cosmopolitans. We talk about generation Y, those born during the early 1980s and early 2000s ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generation_Y ). Or, we can talk about generation Z who were born after the generation Y and have never experienced life without computers and Internet. This should raise concern among those making health policies. It should be questioned if there is interest and motivation for self-care among the young; and most of all how health issues can be promoted among the generations Y and Z. It would be advisable also to be constantly aware of the health (also oral) situation, and what factors contribute to it.
In Finland, oral health promotion was started in 1970s simultaneously with the right for free dental care for all citizens under 18 years of age. In two decades, DMF index among the 12-year-old declined from 7 to 1.5.  The big recession in 1990s caused a cutoff of resources in public oral health care, especially in health promotion. It was, however, reasoned that oral health of the children and the young is and most likely will remain good even with limited resources. Today fizzy drinks, including energy drinks, are commonly consumed and consumption of candy has increased distinctly during the latest decade. In the 2000s, Finnish youngsters have been among the laziest tooth-brushers in Europe (WHO, 2011).  In other Scandinavian countries, young people report remarkably higher frequencies of tooth-brushing.
As about 80% of the Finnish young men enter the military service annually, they comprise a comprehensive study group of male age cohorts. For females, the service is voluntary, and only about 400 enter the service annually. Knowing the poor health behavior situation among the youth and since increase in caries experience had been reported among army recruits, an idea was raised in Finland to investigate oral health and health behavior of the conscripts as well as association of oral health and background factors. A study "Oral health of the Conscripts 2011" was designed in 2010. To see if the large-scale epidemiologic study would be worthwhile, and to test and fine-tune the protocol that could be used to examine the huge number of conscripts, a pilot study was conducted in 2010. The pilot study is reported in Dental Hypotheses in the issue of September 2012. 
In this pilot study, four of ten conscripts reported estimated need for dental treatment, and the same number had toothache or some other dental symptoms. The cause for the latest visit to the dentist of 17% of the conscripts had been emergency care. These figures supported the concern for oral health of the Y generation in Finland; they also supported the need for an epidemiologic study. Need for education and calibration of the examiners was emphasized after the pilot study as well as precise, written protocol for the clinical and radiographic examination. The pilot study demonstrated the need to use randomized sample in the biggest garrisons due to limited time available. In the pilot study, all conscripts answered the voluntary, computer-based questionnaire; the rate is exceptionally high for surveys and promising for the full-scale study, too.
Oral health must not be taken for granted, especially that of children, our future. The battle with dental caries cannot be won, but caries can be controlled. The arms for that battle are simple-brushing with fluoride tooth paste twice a day and limiting especially the frequency of the intake of fermenting carbohydrates. To reach the members of the young generations, creativity must be used to find new ways of health promotionat both population and individual level. To be effective, oral health promotion needs to be continuous.
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