Greetings and welcome to our on-going blog series, Dentistry Through the Ages. In these blog posts, we will cover age-group specific dental needs and concerns. Your life is constantly changing, and we want to equip you with the best information possible to keep your teeth healthy!

Today, we want to take a look at the special dental needs and concerns of high school and college students. Between classes, extracurriculars and socializing, this is no doubt a hectic time period. However, it is still important to remember the basics of dental care- brush twice a day, floss at night and schedule regular teeth cleanings. Bad habits and neglect developed during these times can last well into adulthood, causing irreversible damage to the teeth and gums.

For our patients in orthodontic treatment, please remember to work hard at keeping your brackets, wire and any appliances clean and debris free. Many young adults develop characteristic decay later in life as a result of poorly maintained teeth while in braces. Food stuck under brackets and wires can cause extensive erosion and demineralization that will eventually necessitate fillings. While the teeth may look and feel fine now, the weakened enamel will almost certainly become a problem. As always, take care to follow your orthodontist’s instructions. Some steps or recommendations may seem tedious, but they are all very important and can add months to treatment time if improperly followed.

During these more “studious” years, students often turn to brain food to keep themselves awake and alert during long hours at the library. Unfortunately, this type or prolonged snacking can create lengthy acidic environments in the mouth, leading to extensive tooth decay. For this reason, many patients return home from college and find themselves with their very first cavity. To counteract this, we recommend keeping snack sessions concise, ideally under 30 minutes. For those who need to “graze” to stay focused, we suggest avoiding sticky, processed foods and gravitating towards fresh vegetables, fruits or even cheeses. You can always follow up your snacks with xylitol mints or gum to assist in the remineralization process as well.

For better or worse, this time period is also hallmarked by many young adults experimenting with drugs and alcohol. We are here to remind you that almost every drug (prescription or illicit) will cause dry mouth to some degree. This is a surefire way to speed up the development of decay and cavities, above any other adverse interactions substance may cause. Alcohol is not exempt from this fact. Alcoholic beverages are carb-heavy and acidic, lending themselves to stimulating mouth bacteria and causing enamel erosion. Binge drinking can exacerbate this problem, through prolonged mouth acidity, vomiting, and “passing out” (going to sleep without brushing teeth/sleeping with a dry mouth). Overall, students who choose to party frequently may be faced with a host of oral problems later in life.

In total, many patients who developed good oral care as children will carry it through college and to adulthood. While there are some specific concerns to patients in this age group, most of their dental care extends from the basics of home maintenance. We wanted to highlight some special circumstances that could reverse years of great dental care- before it became a problem. As always, our office is here to guide you and your family towards optimum oral health!