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01 Aug 2013 | Press Release

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Booze, Smokes, Drugs and Oral Sex (just 'cos it feels good doesn't make it safe): Dental Health Week 2013

The Australian Dental Association Inc. (ADA)'s Dental Health Week (DHW) 2013 aimed to tackle the oral health impacts which can arise from not only binge drinking and smoking, but also the more taboo subjects of drug use and oral sex.

In line with this year's DHW theme, "Young Adults Aged 18-30 years", the ADA is releasing its Young Person's Oral Survival Guide (Guide) to help young adults make sure their teeth make it well past their 30th birthday. The Guide can be accessed from the DHW website:

Chair of the Oral Health Committee, Dr Peter Alldritt said: "Young adults enter what's often referred to as the 'time of their lives' (their 20s). Understandably health issues such as cancer, let alone oral cancer, are not at the forefront of young adult concerns. It is absolutely essential that this perception changes. Many people are aware of the general health risks related to excessive smoking, drinking of alcohol, highly sugary and/or acidic drinks, unprotected oral sex or improper care of lip and tongue piercings, but most people don't know that all of these behaviours can damage your teeth, gums or mouth.

"The Guide explains all the oral health risks that young adults are exposed to if these activities are not undertaken safely and in moderation. More importantly, it outlines ways in which young adults can reduce risk but still have fun. It reminds them that they are not 'bulletproof' and need to take care of their oral health. The Guide is essential reading for every young adult to ensure that their teeth make it beyond the age of 30."

Dr Alldritt concluded, "The ADA is suggesting that all young adults become aware of the risks associated with their actions, even if they plan to do them anyway. Being aware does not require becoming a teetotaller or a prude. Whatever you put in your mouth or do with your mouth, do so responsibly, in moderation, and with the appropriate precautions. Your mouth will thank you in the long run."

Some fast facts


  • Heavy drinking, defined as more than four standard drinks on a single occasion, increases the risk of oral cancers.
  • Young adults who smoke and drink alcohol increase their risk of oral cancer 15 times.
  • All fizzy/sports, energy drinks, processed fruit drinks, including sugar-free or 'zero' varieties, contain acid and/or sugar which attacks tooth enamel causing tooth erosion and decay.

Oral cancer:

  • Each and every day at least three Australians are diagnosed with oral cancer.
  • More than 75% of oral cancers in Australia occur in people who smoke.
  • Early detection of oral cancer means a 90% chance of surviving.

Oral sex and HPV:

  • More than 25% of oral cancer sufferers have never smoked. It is likely that these cases of oral cancer are due to contracting the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) through oral sex.
  • HPV is the virus that causes cervical cancer in women and genital warts. It can also cause oral cancer in both men and women. HPV can be transmitted via genital and oral sex. U.S. studies have shown that more than half of oral cancers diagnosed are linked to the HPV virus with the biggest growth in numbers amongst men.

Lip and tongue piercings:

  • Improper care of mouth piercings can cause chipped or broken teeth, damaged gums, swelling and nerve damage, which could affect facial movement and result in permanent numbness, speech impediments and loss of taste.

Eating the wrong things:

  • Not everything is meant to be chewed by teeth. Munching on ice cubes, eating popcorn kernels, or any food that is extremely hard can cause teeth to fracture.

Using teeth as tools:

  • The enamel surface is quite easy to wear down and can crack if teeth are used for the wrong things like opening a bag of chips, tearing off price tags, straightening a bent fork or opening a can of beer. It's best to reach for the scissors or a bottle opener.


  • Eating a minimum of eight serves of vegetables per week, compared to three or less, decreases the chance of mouth cancer by 50 percent.


Staying Safe

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