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Dental Health for College Students 

Classes, studying, social life, maybe a new city to explore – with so many things to do, it’s hard to make time for self-care. It may be tempting to let your good health habits slide, but the things you do now set you up for the rest of your life. Don’t neglect the things that matter – like your smile.

Healthy smiles aren’t just about looking great in selfies or having fresh breath. Your oral health literally is your body’s health. Dental disease has been linked to heart conditions, strokes, digestive problems, respiratory issues, weakened immune systems, Alzheimer’s disease, certain types of cancer … and the list goes on and on. The good news is that, according to the National Institutes of Health, while dental disease is the most prevalent chronic disease -it’s also the most preventable if you take care of your teeth while you’re young. All it takes is good hygiene and health habits along with regular professional care. 


Treat yourself right

What’s good for your teeth is good for your body. Limit sugary and acidic foods and beverages—like candy and sweet snacks, soda, “sports” and “energy” drinks, citrus juices, and processed foods with added sugar or corn syrup. Be sure to stay hydrated too: Your body needs plenty of water to keep up a healthy flow of saliva, which can help neutralize acids and protect against tooth decay.

And be aware that certain medications may cause dry mouth, which makes you more susceptible to cavities. Tobacco and alcohol use have the same effect. Certain medical conditions, such as eating disorders or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), can cause your teeth to be bathed in acid, resulting in enamel loss. Tell your dentist about any medications you take, or health challenges that you face.


Get smart about your smile

Teeth can’t brush themselves. If you skip – or scrimp – on cleaning your teeth then you’re leaving plaque bacteria on tooth surfaces. These bacteria release acids which eat away at your tooth enamel—the hard, outer covering of your teeth. Soon, a small hole (cavity) begins to form in the outer layers of the tooth. If left untreated, the decay can continue eating away at the tooth structure, and the bacteria can reach deeper inside the tooth. This can eventually make it necessary for you to have root canal treatment—or even to have the tooth removed.

Brush your teeth the right way

You might figure that vigorous brushing is more likely to remove food debris and just-forming plaque than a gentler approach. But the truth is that aggressive brushing can actually cause cavities.

The enamel that covers your teeth is comprised of tiny, tightly packed rods of minerals. Brushing your teeth with a side-to-side motion can cause the rods to weaken and break. Instead, position your toothbrush’s bristles at a 45-degree angle to the surface of the teeth and brush gently in small circles.

Be especially careful when brushing near your gums – hard, side-to-side brushing here can cause irritation that can lead to infection and receding gums. But it’s equally important to clean the gumline properly as bacteria-laden plaque and tartar tend to congregate here. Rinsing with water or your favorite mouthwash can help to dislodge debris, along with flossing.

And even if your brushing and flossing skills are beyond compare, you still need regular professional cleanings and checkups to keep your teeth and gums healthy.

Affordable dental care for college students

Preventive dental care is among the very best investments you can make in your health and financial well-being. According to the Coalition on Oral Health, every dollar invested in preventive oral health care saves between $8 to $50 in restorative care.

While there’s no set schedule for routine dental visits, twice per year is often recommended. These usually cost about $200-$300 per visit, but you can often find great discounts through online deal sites. And if you have dental insurance, preventive care is often very inexpensive or even free.  

Dental insurance aims to help cover the cost of dental treatment. The typical cost of an individual dental insurance policy is around $350 a year. For this, you typically get all of your preventative care -cleanings, checkups and x-rays – for free or very inexpensively. Basic treatments such as fillings are covered up to 80% of the cost, and your insurance will pay 50% of more complex procedures such as root canals and crowns.

No dental insurance? Your school may offer a dental clinic or health plan for its students. If you have health insurance without dental coverage, you may want to look into dental savings plans.

Dental savings plans are an affordable alternative to traditional insurance. Plan members get discounts of 10%-60% on their dental care from dentists who have agreed to accept a specific plan. Dental savings plans have no annual caps and no restrictions on obtaining care for preexisting conditions. Plans start at $79.00, select plans include discounts on prescriptions, vision care and even telemedicine at no additional cost.

Carefully consider your options – dental insurance, a dental savings plan, or self-insurance (banking the amount you’d pay for insurance in a savings account), and then choose the option that’s right for you.

To learn more about dental savings plans, visit