Objectives: Document the frequency of substance use and oral hygiene among adolescents and young adults with moderate to complex congenital heart disease (CHD).
Background: Patients' knowledge of health behaviors, including substance use and oral hygiene, has been examined among patients with CHD, but patients' actual behavior has not been studied. Understanding patients' behavior is needed to inform interventions that enhance healthy lifestyles, and in turn encourage patients to better care for their own health.
Methods: Young adults (19 or 20 years old) and older adolescents (16-18 years old) with moderate or complex CHD (n = 328) reported their substance use (i.e., smoking, marijuana, alcohol, other illicit drugs) and oral hygiene. Rates of these health behaviors were contrasted with comparison samples of peers of the same age.
Results: Just over half of the young adults (54%) and over one-quarter of the adolescents (28%) reported significant substance use (i.e., smoking cigarettes on more than 2 days, using marijuana or other illicit drugs at least once, or binge drinking) during the previous 30 days. Rates of significant substance use among the patients with CHD were either comparable to, or lower than, rates in comparison samples of similar aged peers. Only about 15% of the patients with CHD had excellent oral hygiene (i.e., self-reported annual teeth cleaning by dentist, brushing and flossing daily); however, virtually all patients (>95%) brushed daily. Patients with CHD generally had comparable oral hygiene to comparison samples in previously published data.
Conclusions: Many older adolescents and young adults with CHD are engaging in behaviors that may compromise their health. The impact of substance use and poor dental hygiene warrants further investigation. Nevertheless, health behaviors should be routinely discussed in this population.