Young Adult Dental Health
Throughout your life, as your body grows and your lifestyle changes, each life stage brings new challenges and risks for your dental health. Young adults work hard to get into a good college, excel at college, and enter the workforce for the first time, all of which increase their stress levels. They also are more likely to engage in high-risk behaviors that can put their dental health at risk. Let's dive into issues relevant to young adult dental health as a result of their changing lifestyles and specific pressures.
Young adults are great candidates for orthodontics. They have all their adult teeth, but are still growing. Getting braces is almost a young adult rite-of-passage. Why do straight teeth matter? If you choose not to correct crooked teeth or gaps, you could have problems eating and chewing. You will also likely have food and plaque buildup which leads to cavities. Braces are an easy solution that creates proper spacing in your mouth. They come in many different forms, including "invisible" Clear Correct, which we offer in our office.
Young adults often try new things as they decide who they will become. Unfortunately, tobacco is still common among young adults; 99% of first time tobacco users are 26 or younger. Of course, everyone knows that smoking effects your overall health. However, most people don't consider how your mouth is especially affected as the first point of contact.
Common oral health issues in smokers:
- Oral cancer
- Gum disease
- Tooth loss
- Staining on the tongue and teeth
- Damaged sense of taste and smell
- Slow healing after procedures
Many young adults today choose to pierce their tongue or lips as a fashion statement. While it may be trendy, it's not ideal for young adult dental health. It's best to try to avoid places in your mouth where piercings will hit or rub against your teeth or gums. Persistent rubbing can cause your gums to recede or wear down. Jewelry that hits against your teeth can cause damage to your enamel, or sometimes even chip your teeth. If you are determined to get a piercing, do due diligence to research the parlor where you get the piercing. Make sure that all tools used are properly sterilized and make sure to keep the piercing clean until it heals completely.
Generally, young adults are beginning to decide, plan, and buy their own food. This often leads to poor dietary choices like lots of soda, sugary and salty processed foods, which increase the risk of cavities. The best diet will include lots of water and plenty of fiber. Staying hydrated helps decrease bad breath and promotes healthy gums. Additionally, it is better to plan to have three distinct meals a day. Constant snacking doesn't properly stimulate the salivary glands, which increases the risk of food getting stuck between teeth. Another factor of a young adult's diet that may change is frequent heavy drinking.
Heavy, frequent drinking (and hangovers) lead to:
- increased risk of oral cancer
- dry mouth
- bad breath
- worn down enamel
Most people have a third row of molars, wisdom teeth, that come in between 17-24. However, most people don't have room for their wisdom teeth. Teeth that don't have enough room, or impacted teeth, often damage neighboring teeth. They can cause pain, cysts, decay, infection, gum disease, or damage to the roots of nearby teeth. You should speak with your dentist to determine whether or not you should consider removing your wisdom teeth.
Finals. College entrance exams. First time away from home. Juggling a job and college classes. Major life decisions. First professional job. Long hours. The young adult years can be a gauntlet. These stressors can have unforeseen affects on young adult dental health.
Common signs of mismanaged stress:
- canker sores in the mouth
- sore jaw or teeth in the morning (probably means you are grinding your teeth in your sleep)
- Gum disease (triggered by high cortisol levels)
- Popping jaw