October 23, 2018
Health & Fitness
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Dental Preparation For College Days

Dr. Jeffrey Cranska
Dr. Jeffrey Cranska's picture
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August 20, 2018

Going off to college away from home, you will face a new lifestyle. Will you abandon your dental health habits? Do you have good diet and dental habits to begin with?

When undergoing this important life change, three topics should be assessed: changes in everyday habits, snacking and wisdom teeth.

Q: Why do some of my friends have problems with decay and others don’t?

A: Diet, oral hygiene and your body’s resistance are factors. This problem relates to nutrition and what and when you eat. The high-frequency ingestion of sugar (starchy foods, candies, sodas and energy drinks, coffee, etc.) leads to tooth decay. The average teenager drinks more than 60 gallons of soft drinks per year.

Starches are broken down by mouth enzymes to sugars, sugars broken down into acids. These acids then break down the tooth. After the last intake of sugar, tooth plaque bacteria give off acids for up to 20 minutes. If you constantly sip and snack, your teeth can’t fight the constant production of acid, and demineralization results.

Once tooth enamel is destroyed, the only treatment is the placement of a restoration at the dentist.

Q: My dentist says I need to have my wisdom teeth extracted before I go away to college. They don’t hurt. Do I really need to have my wisdom teeth removed?

A: Third molars (wisdom teeth) are the final set and last teeth to erupt into the mouth. These four teeth are expected to enter and be fully grown in the mouth from your middle teens to your early 20s.

There are two scenarios we need to address. Are the teeth in the mouth? You can keep your wisdom teeth for the rest of your life if they are fully erupted into the jaw, if they are not the source of any pain, if they line up well so you can bite properly with the other teeth and if you are able to clean them daily.

It may be best to remove teeth that have extensive decay, are infected with gum disease, are painful, or have repeated infections in the area behind the last tooth, or if there is damage to adjacent teeth.

Q: Are these teeth not fully erupted and blocked from coming in?

A: Sometimes these teeth will never come in. Tilted under the gums, stuck against other teeth, these are impacted wisdom teeth. Impacted teeth need to come out. It is easier to extract wisdom teeth when you are young, before the roots are fully developed and the bone gets harder as you age. They need to come out to stop teeth from causing a problem now or to prevent damage to other surrounding healthy teeth in the future. The procedure is more easily done before going off to school to prevent the onset of discomfort or pain, with the resulting loss of class time due to travel, surgery and recovery.

Regular dental appointments are always important to treat tooth problems early.

Students at college, you control your lifestyle habits. The large consumption of sugar snacks, soda, energy drinks and coffee can be bad for teeth. Smoking and alcohol misuse lead to additional oral health problems and negatively affect overall long-term wellness.

Take care of yourself.

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