News & media Blog The university oral health survival guide 25 March 2018 Going to University is often referred to as “the best three years you’ll ever have.” The education, the nightlife, the lifestyle are just a few reasons why it is such a wonderful experience. What’s often not mentioned is how easy it can be to fall into bad habits, especially if you’ve moved away from home and into student accommodation. Suddenly there is so much to think about from buying food, to getting to lectures on time and which one of your sneaky flatmates have been stealing your milk! You’ve got more to think about day-to-day than ever before but while you’re busy having a good time, I can’t stress enough how important it is to make sure your oral health doesn’t suffer as a result. So, here’s my top five oral health tips for uni-goers looking to keep their teeth and gums at a first-class degree standard. Shop for food wisely Picture this scenario – your parents have just dropped you off at university, you’ve moved into your new flat and the fridge is, of course, empty. You’ve got to go food shopping, perhaps for the first time and since you’ve just got your student loan, money is no object! The temptation might be there to go crazy and just buy all the unhealthy things that you were only allowed in moderation when you were living under mum and dad’s roof. The sugary drinks, the microwave meals and enough snacks to feed a whole lecture theatre. As good as that freedom to do as you please might feel at the time, you can really do a lot of damage over time to both your teeth and your whole body in general. The sugar that so many snacks and drinks contain can wreak havoc on your teeth and cause decay. Many processed foods which you may be able to buy on the cheap will have tons of sugar in them. Believe it or not, some products pack two punches because not only do they contain sugar but they’re also very acidic, which also won’t do your oral health any favours whatsoever. Try your best to resist the temptation to fill your trolley full of products like this and limit the amount of times you eat or drink sugary products throughout the day. One of the best ways to do this is to simply prepare a list of food and drink you’re planning to buy before you hit the shop. This way you’re likely to put much more thought into what you’ll be eating for the next week and buying things that meet all your dietary requirements. Rather than going to your local shop and simply buying everything you like. Energy drinks One of the biggest culprits when it comes to acidity and sugar content are energy drinks. I remember vividly walking through my university library late at night and seeing so many cans of energy drinks being drunk by fellow students who were pulling an all-nighter, trying to get an assignment done. A danger that often gets overlooked when it comes to these kinds of drinks is the addiction it can lead to. If you’re repeatedly having energy drinks day after day, before too long your body will become reliant on them. It’s an extremely slippery slope and means that you’re subjecting your teeth to frequent contact with sugar and acid, which of course will not do them any good at all. The best way to kick a tough habit is never to start it in the first place. Don’t risk getting hooked on something that can be very harmful for both your oral health and general health. You’ll find the best source of energy is a good night’s sleep so try your best to stick to that. Don’t go overboard on alcohol The term “moderation is key” is extremely appropriate when it comes to drinking alcohol. Once again, alcoholic drinks can be very acidic and cause erosion of the enamel on your teeth. This essentially means the top layer of your teeth gets worn away, which can lead to pain and sensitivity. Additionally, drinking alcohol to excess is a major risk factor linked with mouth cancer and it’s responsible for around a third of cases. But the key is the excess part. Moderation is so important when it comes to alcohol and in order to lower the risk of encountering the dangers it poses, you need to stick within the recommended limits. If you need a guide on what the recommended units of alcohol per day are, click here. Better to be safe than sorry! Did you know that the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is one of the most widespread sexually transmitted viruses on the world and more than 80% of sexually active people will get it at some point in their lives? It has the potential to cause genital warts and several deadly cancers, like mouth cancer. If that wasn’t scary enough, the virus, which is transmitted mostly through oral sex, will overtake tobacco use and drinking alcohol to excess as the main cause of mouth cancer within the next decade! Keep an eye out for any unusual changes you spot in or around your mouth, whether it be ulcers that don’t heal, white or red patches, a lump or bump. If you do notice any of these then visit a dentist or doctor as soon as possible. For more information about HPV and how best to protect yourself from it, visit the #GiveLoveNotHPV website by clicking here. Don’t forget the importance of a great smile! Last but by no means least, a healthy smile is so important. Not only can a smile show your confidence and happiness, especially if you’re at an interview, but it can also be a sign of friendliness, which really comes in handy at university. All the advice above will help you maintain a healthy smile at university but there are three key staples of every good oral health routine. Brush your teeth last thing at night and on at least one other occasion with a fluoride toothpaste. Cut down on the quantity and how often you have sugary foods and drinks. Visit your dentist regularly, as often as they recommend.