Going To ‘Uni’ Next Term? Make Sure To Look After Your Teeth!

University can be a life determining experience but don’t neglect your teeth

Happy personThere are many good reasons for going to university. The most obvious of these is to further your education, and for many of you, to gain the qualifications needed to pursue your chosen career.

University life offers so much more though and many lifelong friendships, and relationships, will be made during this time.

For many of you, it will be your first taste of independence too, especially if you are going to a university that isn’t in your home town. This can be exciting, although it can create problems as well.

The reality is that in order to function well and healthily, much of our life is relatively routine. When we are away from home for the first time, some of these routines are likely to change, or even disappear altogether. Unfortunately, our oral care is sometimes included in this!

Student lifestyle

Student life may have come a long way from episodes of ‘The Young Ones’ which older patients of our Epsom dental clinic may remember.  Few students will be cooking up Neil’s lentil curry and will be eating a lot more processed food instead. Although Neil’s curries may have looked revolting, processed foods are likely to be far more harmful for your teeth and gums.

Many processed foods contain fairly high quantities of sugar. This is the case even for savoury foods where sugar is used to enhance the taste. Cakes, biscuits etc are obviously high in sugar but savoury foods should not be ignored either. So much has been written about sugar and tooth decay that we probably don’t need to discuss this, but do make sure to include plenty of fresh food in your diet, perhaps supplemented with the occasional processed food ‘treat’.

It is worth mentioning that even non-sugar processed foods can be harmful to your teeth and gums. Junk food is well known to lead to obesity and this, in turn, makes diseases such as diabetes more likely. As readers of the Clock Tower Dental Clinic blogs will know, patients who are diabetic are at a much higher risk of gum disease than those who aren’t.

Alcohol and drugs

Although they may not play such a large part in student life as in the past, alcohol and drugs are still a significant part of student life for many, especially where large gatherings such as parties are concerned.

Alcohol is harmful for our overall oral health and can not only increase the risk of gum disease, but of oral cancers too.  This doesn’t mean that you should avoid alcohol altogether unless you wish to do so, but you should be aware of your consumption levels and make sure to drink sensibly. Your head will also probably thank you for it too!

Drugs are a fact of life for many younger people but they can have a devastating effect on both our oral and general health. There has been much written about general health but the following are just a few examples of some of the effects that drugs can have on our oral health.

Heroin – Causes cravings for very sugary foods which can destroy teeth. Addicts also tend to focus solely on the drug and neglect their lives including their mouth health. Multiple tooth loss is likely if you become addicted and this is very easy to do. Avoid this drug at all costs!

Cocaine – This is a widely used ‘recreational’ drug, especially for ‘clubbers’. Cocaine is actually very acidic and if it comes into contact with the teeth, can badly affect them. Some users take this drug by rubbing it into the gums. This can lead to mouth sores which may become infected.

Amphetamines – These include the widely used ‘ecstacy’ and are commonly used at raves and similar occasions. A common side effect of this drug is that it causes the user to grind their teeth together, leading to worn and potentially cracked teeth. It can also cause dehydration which can be very dangerous, especially in a hot atmosphere. A dry mouth will also increase the risk of gingival diseases.

Cannabis – Like smoking regular tobacco, cannabis is very harmful for the mouth and may lead to oral cancers. Bad breath and gum disease is also likely.

Our strong advice is to completely avoid using drugs like those mentioned above, but at least know the significant risks if you do.

HPV

We shouldn’t ignore the fact that many people have more sexual partners during these years than they normally would.  We don’t make moral judgements about these things but it is important that there is an awareness of the risk of HPV, a virus that can be contracted through oral sex and which has been shown to be a significant risk factor for oral cancer. You may wish to discuss a possible vaccination against this with your GP before you go and if you feel you might be at risk.

Remember too, that during your university years, you will still need to see a dentist on a regular basis. If you live in Epsom and are coming home from time to time, please talk to us so that we can try to arrange a convenient appointment. If you are living away and not returning on a regular basis, do make sure to register at a practice in your university town or city.

If you would like to make an appointment at the Clock Tower Dental Clinic, you can do so by calling us on 01372 720136.