08:53 AM

How College Kids Are Spreading Cavities

By: Dr. Brian Novy, DentaQuest Institute

As a dentist, I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon – kids who go to college without ever getting a cavity often return home to find out they now have dental caries.

No one has looked at this phenomenon with rigorous clinical trials, but many of my colleagues see this happen to their patients. Why is this?

Most of us naturally have the bacteria that cause tooth decay already living in our mouths. As Everyday Health explains, tooth decay results when that bacteria feed on food debris (starchy, sticky foods are a primary culprit) and produce acid as a byproduct. This mixture of food, acid, saliva, and germs clings to your teeth as a filmy substance called plaque, which over time can erode the enamel and cause cavities to form.

When the mouth’s environment is repeatedly altered by a change in diet – such as constant snacking, which often occurs when college students study – it gradually begins to encourage the growth of the decay causing bacteria. Additionally, kissing, sharing food and utensils can cause germ to spread, making cavities “contagious.”

If college students don’t want to experience their first cavities during winter or summer break, they can follow these helpful tips:
  • Brush teeth with fluoridated toothpaste for two minutes at least twice a day – preferably after breakfast and before bed
  • Floss twice a day
  • Rinse your mouth with anticavity fluoride rinse after brushing your teeth
  • Leave a little toothpaste foam in your mouth when you go to bed
  • Rinse your mouth with water after drinking sugary and acidic drinks like sports drinks or alcohol and eating candy or sticky foods. Be sure to brush later.

For more oral health tips visit our adult oral health library.