Parents have plenty to worry about when their children head off to college—paying for tuition, making sure they stay on top of their coursework, and helping them get into the routine of undergraduate life, just to name a few. But one expensive and potentially painful outcome for many college students that they and their parents aren’t aware of is the risk of cavities and tooth decay.
College is notorious for packing on the pounds—hence the phrase “freshman 15”—but the bad habits that lead to weight gain can also lead to poor oral hygiene. Even children who were raised with good dental hygiene habits such as brushing and flossing twice per day can fall victim to the pitfalls of college life and neglect their teeth when they’re away from home.
Three of the biggest reasons that college students face a high risk of cavities include:
Brushing and flossing less often
The first taste of freedom for many students can result in a lack of discipline in certain aspects of their lives. With no one to answer to, they may end up with messy rooms, sinks full of dishes, and yes, mouths full of germs. And when they do brush or floss, they may be less thorough than they should, leaving some parts of their mouths exposed to plaque and bacteria.
Eating and drinking damaging foods
Campus dining halls are often full of sugary and unhealthy foods, including desserts, sodas, energy drinks, and sugar-laden coffees. It’s not uncommon for college students to consume those late at night while studying or cramming for exams and then forget to brush their teeth afterward, allowing huge amounts of sugar to damage their teeth overnight.
Drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes
Aside from a myriad of other adverse health effects, alcohol and cigarettes can also cause significant dry mouth due to dehydration and inflammation of the gums. They can even cause certain forms of oral and tongue cancers. Many alcoholic beverages are made or mixed using large amounts of sugary additives, exacerbating the problem for college students whose oral health may already be in jeopardy.
101st Dentistry is Clarksville’s Choice for Adult Patients—including College Students
As a parent, the best you can hope for while your child is away at college is that he or she will be conscientious and responsible in all aspects of life, including taking care of his or her teeth. And while the situation may feel out of your hands at times, there is one important way you can help—schedule dental appointments for the times they’re home on break, or find a local dentist they can visit near their campus.