With the fall semester well under way, many young adults have left home ready to experience life as college students. It’s a big change that can lead to changes in dental hygiene.

Dentists at the Texas A&M Health Science Center Baylor College of Dentistry say increasing soft drink consumption, skipping brushing and flossing, starting to smoke cigarettes, and grinding teeth because of increased stress are possible causes of tooth decay among college freshmen.

“It’s important for new college students to learn to be self-disciplined,” says Dr. Charles W. Wakefield, professor and director of the Advanced Education in General Dentistry Residency program at TAMHSC-Baylor College of Dentistry. “That means getting adequate sleep, eating healthfully, watching alcohol consumption and staying away from cigarettes.”

Dr. Wakefield also recommends a custom-fitted bite guard for students who develop a grinding problem and says dental sealants are also an option, especially to protect the chewing surfaces of molars. But sealants don’t protect the sides of the teeth, so students still need to brush and floss daily.

— LaDawn Brock