Back to School & Your Oral Health: 101

Going back to school

Going back to school

With every new schedule, comes new habits. After years of steady routines, your first years of high school, and even college, can really impact the consistency of your oral care regimen. After school activities, late-night study sessions, and the occasional night out, may all have a part in sidelining your regular brush and floss schedule.

The ADA suggests only 10% of adults floss daily, and 32% of college-age adults brush only once a day. As a student, you likely have a lot on your mind, but that doesn’t mean you should let your oral health fall to the wayside. After all, you are part of a generation with a longer life expectancy; wouldn’t it be great to live a long, healthy life with your own, real teeth?

So, what are you doing now, that might derail that goal?

7 Destructive Dental Habits of Students

  • Energy drinks – The combination of large amounts of sugar and the acidity of most energy drinks is ruining your teeth. While the caffeine and sugar may help you power through a study session, long-term, the enamel on your teeth is going to be damaged, and consuming those energy drinks puts you at a much higher risk for cavities. Damaged tooth enamel cannot be fixed.
  • Late night snacking – You should already be concerned about the effect your diet has on your cardiovascular system and your waistline, the residual sugars and food particles left behind will have all night to cause long-term tooth damage, so be sure to brush your teeth before going to bed!
  • Alcohol Consumption – Soft drinks, alcohol and poor eating in general, can become problematic. Tooth erosion becomes significantly higher when highly acidic and sugar ladened food and drinks are consumed. An ADA dental health study reports, 3/4 of 18-29-year-olds admit they don’t always brush their teeth after a night out drinking, even though they can feel plaque buildup on their teeth.
  • Use of Tobacco – This should come as no surprise: tobacco products are bad for your teeth and gums. This doesn’t just apply to cigarettes and chew, though about half of college students think hookah smoking (a rising trend in the US) is safer than cigarettes. Countless research and documented studies stand behind the negative health effects caused by tobacco use. Tobacco, in any form, will rapidly deteriorate the surfaces of your mouth and put you at increased risk for oral cancers.
  • Poor nutrition – Eating poorly is a risk factor often associated with students. A lack of time, a lack of kitchen access (or not knowing your way around one), and limited financial resources lead to unhealthy eating habits among student populations. While the right foods, including cheese, potatoes, and fruit will help your teeth, poor choices such as candy, soda, and sugary foods will harm them.
  • You don’t floss and brush your teeth regularly – I get it; you are busy preparing your mind for the future, but it takes only a few minutes each day to prepare your teeth. I recommend keeping a spare toothbrush, fluoride toothpaste, mouth rinse, and floss in a school bag, purse, or your car. You will always have what you need when the unexpected occurs, or when you just can’t get into the bathroom because a roommate is taking forever.
  • Grinding your teeth – Students clench and grind their teeth when they’re stressed and sometimes, even when they’re not, most of the time unknowingly. Some may even suffer from TMJ as a result, not realizing the pain they have are simply from “clenching” their mouth. This can be a hard habit to stop if you don’t know you’re doing it, and sometimes it happens during your sleep. Since your mouth isn’t meant to be a full-time grinding mill, you may want to consider getting a night guard. Also, avoid chewing gum.

Let’s Get a New Start This Semester

There are quite a few things you can do to keep your oral health on track and it begins with consistency. For students constantly on the go, make brushing your teeth after breakfast and just before bed a habit.

Aim to get at least two minutes of proper brushing in, each time. And no matter what you tell your dentist, we know you don’t floss as often as you should, so try to squeeze in more flossing time, too. You’ll thank us later, because when you don’t floss, you are leave as much as 1/3 of your tooth surfaces primed for bacterial growth.

With every new school year, your time becomes more crunched and the important things get placed on the backburner. What you do now could affect you for the rest of your life.

A great way to stay on track and make sure your oral health stays in check is by scheduling regular dental exams and cleanings. Early detection and prevention are key.  


Focused on dental excellence,

Dr. Manalili