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Posted on: October 24, 2017
UF Students: 15 Lifelong Benefits of Actually Going to the Dentist as a Young Adult
The life of a college student can be stressful. Between classes, deadlines, extracurricular activities, part-time jobs and juggling free time spent with friends and family, it can be challenging for students to take care of their oral health. With such a packed schedule, something as simple as regular dental checkups can fall by the wayside. Taking care of dental health is important, especially for young adults, as doing so can yield some lifelong benefits. Here are 15 reasons why college students should make it a point to schedule regular visits to their dentist.
1. Learn Good Dental Habits
Our young adult years are when we develop habits that can last a lifetime. Neglecting your dental health at this point of your life likely means that you will continue to put it on the back-burner. Life only gets more hectic after college, after all. Maintaining regular dentist visits during your youth ensures that you continue the good oral habits your family imparted to you as a youngster. Your dentist, upon assessing your teeth and gums, can advise on your daily dental routine, provide information on correct brushing and flossing techniques, and habits to avoid. One skill you should definitely learn from your dentist is how to floss properly. According to dentist Andrew Swiatowicz, proper flossing is a large contributor to good dental health. Not flossing means not cleaning 40 percent of your teeth’s surfaces.
2. Prevent Cavities and Tooth Decay
Regular brushing and flossing as well as good dental habits aren’t enough to care for your teeth and gums. A survey by the National Center for Health Statistics revealed that nearly a third of adults aged 20–44 have untreated cavities. This is because the buildup of tartar can lead to cavities and tooth decay, and only a professional cleaning can remove those safely. As DentalPlans.com puts it, “Even people who are super-dedicated to good oral hygiene will inevitably miss a bit of plaque here and there, which can harden into tartar.” During your regular checkup, your dentist can do a thorough cleaning of your teeth, and remove any tartar and plaque. This reduces your risk for cavities and tooth decay.
3. Prevent Gum Disease
Periodontal disease occurs when bacteria has seeped in your gums, causing inflammation and infection. Many adults lose their teeth due to gum disease, according to the American Dental Association. Gum disease is often a result of bad dental habits such as not brushing your teeth correctly, not flossing and not visiting the dentist. As gum disease is painless, it is difficult for people to self-diagnose. However, a dentist can spot the signs and provide treatment. Gum disease occurs in stages, and the more advanced it is, the more severe the effects. If you visit your dentist regularly, it can be caught in the early stage called gingivitis when it is still reversible.
4. Screen for Oral Cancer
According to The Oral Cancer Foundation, oral cancer affects almost 50,000 Americans every year. Your dentist, during your visit, can help screen for oral cancer by checking for any signs or symptoms. According to Carolyn Vachani at OncoLink, “Your dentist will examine and feel your face, neck, lips, mouth, tongue, thyroid gland, salivary glands and lymph nodes for any abnormalities.” One of the leading causes of death by oral cancer is late detection of the disease, so your regular dental visit can save your life.
5. Prevent Oral Damage
You may not realize it, but there are many little habits that can have an adverse effect on your oral health. We know the common issues such as not flossing, not brushing your teeth enough and drinking too much coffee. But did you also know that habits such as grinding your teeth, consuming too much hard or sticky sweets and chewing ice can also affect your teeth and gums? It’s your dentist’s job to assess any oral damage that has occurred since your last visit. Regularly going to the dentist means having a dental history that can provide insight into any problems that may develop. If oral damage is detected, your dentist can advise you on making any lifestyle changes that can improve the condition of your teeth and gums while also fixing existing issues.
6. Maintain a Healthy Beautiful Smile
Good dental habits play a large role in keeping your smile bright, and regular visits to the dentist can help, as well. Plaque and tartar can lodge beneath your gum line or in hard-to-reach places that floss and your toothbrush cannot get to. That’s where your dentist comes in, as he or she can remove them easily with their professional tools. A professional cleaning can also help reduce stains from too much coffee drinking. What’s more, your dentist can also provide other dental treatments that can protect your teeth and keep your smile healthy.
7. Uncover Any Underlying Issues Via X-Rays
Your dentist does more than just manage the aesthetics of your teeth. Your dental visits are also an opportunity for your dentist to uncover any underlying issues via X-rays. Often, there may be issues beneath the surface even though your teeth and gums look fine. As the American Dental Association puts it, “Even if you don’t have any symptoms, you can still have dental health problems that only a dentist can diagnose.” Krisha McCoy at Everyday Health outlines what your dentist looks out for when conducting a dental X-ray:
- Signs of infections in the oral cavity
- Any cavities or tooth decay
- Signs of gum disease
- Any abnormalities such as an abscess or cyst
- Any teeth problems such as impacted or unerupted tooth
- Any issues with the ligaments that supports teeth
Regular dental examinations allow your dentist to track any small changes in your oral health that could blow up into a bigger problem. He or she can diagnose and provide preventative action for your long-term dental health.
8. Manage Any Wisdom Tooth Issues
Wisdom tooth problems are common in college-aged young adults, and often, if you’re already feeling the pain, the problem has progressed to the point where you need extraction. Having regular visits to the dentist means that issues such as impacted teeth can be detected early. In such cases, your dentist can advise on preventative measures such as early removal of your wisdom teeth, which can spare you from pain.
9. Prevent Bad Breath
Halitosis, or bad breath, is a common complaint. Leigh Weingus at Huffington Post reports that the “activity of bacteria in the mouth” is the culprit, and this can be caused by poor oral hygiene. Regular dental visits can help by keeping your oral cavity cleaner and free from leftover food particles and bacteria that cause bad breath. Bad breath can also be a sign of a more serious illness such as diabetes or a liver ailment. A visit to your dentist can help find the source of the issue and help you find solutions for it.
10. Maintain Overall Good Health
The state of your dental health can be a reflection of your overall health, says Allison Fox at Huffington Post. According to her, health issues such as poor sleep, poor diet, heart disease and eating disorders can be detected by your dentist during a dental examination. Kate Lowenstein at Everyday Health concurs and reports that oral health can also be linked to pneumonia and pancreatic cancer, and lead to health complications for pregnant women. If your teeth and gums are unhealthy, it can be an indication of other illnesses. Your dentist, who is trained to observe any abnormalities, can recognize symptoms and signs and provide advice, where necessary.
11. Early Detection and Treatment of Dental Problems
Dental problems, like other health problems, if left untreated, will progress and lead to even larger problems. For example, the early stage of gum disease can progress to the more serious form of the disease, periodontitis, if it is not detected and treated. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research reports that “if not treated, the bones, gums, and tissue that support the teeth are destroyed.” When you regularly visit your dentist, he or she will update your dental chart with information and issues regarding your oral condition, Healthline reminds readers. A dental chart is helpful in tracking your dental health and provides a point of reference for your dentist to see any changes that may require attention or treatment.
12. Ensure That Any Dental Work Done Remains in Good Shape
If you’ve had dental work such as fillings or extractions done, keeping up with your dental visits allows your dentist to monitor the condition of your teeth and gums and ensure that everything is on the right track. For instance, although dental fillings can last for years, they are subject to wear and tear. Regular examinations allow your dentist to check that your fillings are intact, and assess whether they need to be replaced if they are worn or cracked. Early detection can prevent the need for more costly restorative dental work — and also save you a great deal of pain and inconvenience.
13. Prevent Tooth Loss
The loss of teeth typically occurs due to gum disease when the bone and tissue in your gums are no longer strong enough to hold them. Gum disease at this advanced stage could have been treated, if it had been caught earlier. Similarly, tooth loss due to decay is also preventable. Regular cleaning by your dentist removes tartar and plaque, and that can save your teeth from bacteria that eat away at the enamel.
14. Save Money in the Long Run
Corrective dental work can be costly, and as with most other health issues, prevention is better than cure when it comes to your teeth and gums. Regular cleaning and dental examinations can prevent tooth loss, gum disease and other dental problems. A little time and money spent today can save you hundreds or thousands in future dental bills if you have to deal with decaying teeth, bleeding gums or the need for dental surgery.
15. Increased Self-Confidence
Your smile is one of the first things that people notice about you. Having a bright smile and healthy teeth and gums can do wonders for your self-esteem and confidence. As Dr. Gordon Rye writes at Your Dental Health Resource: “People often feel the need to hide their smiles when missing teeth, stains, or crooked teeth are apparent. … People who have their best smile are more confident, less anxious, and enjoy life more.” Images by: Allef Vinicius, Tanja Heffner, StockSnap, vilandrra