Entering college is one of the biggest transitions of a person's life. It's no surprise that in the whirlwind of new people, new places, and new experiences, some important things can be neglected. One thing that college students often unwittingly neglect is their dental health care. You'll be away from your familiar family dentist. Your sleeping and eating patterns may be erratic. You'll be under brand-new kinds of stress. And as a result of all that, your teeth may suffer. Take a look at the things that you need to know to ensure that you graduate with not only a good education, but with a healthy smile as well.
Find a Dentist Near You
One of the most important things you can do to maintain your oral health is to find a dentist in your area that you can see for regular cleanings and treatment. This can be more difficult than it sounds for college students. Affordability of dental care is an important concern. Although the Affordable Care Act allows college students to stay on their parents' health insurance plans, dental care insurance is not required to be offered to adults. That means that if your parents don't choose to pay for a dental plan, you may be on your own.
However, that doesn't mean that there are no low-cost options. Many universities offer student health insurance plans that may cover dental treatments. Find out if such a plan is available to you. If you attend a college that has a dental school, or if you attend a college that's near a dental school, you may be able to get cleanings and other treatments at a deep discount from the student dentists. You may also be able to find free or sliding cost dental care through a federally-funded community health center in your area. You can locate these community health centers through the Health Resources and Services Administration.
Watch the Snacking
College students often develop less-than-ideal eating habits due to their busy schedules and limited funds. Even if you weren't a frequent snacker before starting college, it may simply be easier to grab something small from a vending machine or the cafeteria between classes, rather than sitting down for a full meal. Late-night snacking can help keep your energy levels up while cramming for exams or writing term papers.
Unfortunately, frequent snacking can not only lead to the dreaded "freshman 15" weight gain, it can also lead to tooth decay. Eating causes the bacteria in your mouth to produce acids as a side effect of the process of breaking down the food you just ate. This is normal, and under ideal circumstances, the acids are neutralized by your saliva. But when you snack too often, you won't produce enough saliva to keep up, and your teeth will spend too much time exposed to harsh acids that can weaken the enamel and promote decay. It's best to curb the snacks and carve out the time for a few full meals each day. Don't forget to brush and floss after eating!
Avoid Energy Drinks
When you need to attend an 8am class after a late night out, an energy drink may seem like the perfect solution. However, some dentists believe that popular energy drinks are a primary reason for the rise in cavities among teenagers and college-aged students.
Energy drinks are particularly corrosive because they're loaded with both sugar and acids. Many of the drinks are fruity flavored, which means that they contain citric acid. Carbonation is also an acid that can weaken enamel with too much exposure. If at all possible, it's best for your teeth and your health to just get a good night's sleep, rather than relying on energy drinks. If you desperately need an energy boost, try drinking your energy drink through a straw – this can minimize the amount of contact the drink has with your teeth.
Remember that once you have your degree, you'll need to start interviewing for jobs. You're far more likely to impress future employers if you can flash a dazzling smile. Taking care of your teeth in college is just as important as keeping up your GPA.
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