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As thousands of students settle into the world of university for the first time, there are so many things to remember – a kettle, toaster, pots and pans, even a favourite duvet.
There’s a whole new world ahead of them, but there’s one area that often gets overlooked by uni newbies – and that’s oral health.
Previous research has suggested some students are more at risk of losing their teeth than others.
While adjusting to a new lifestyle may be the main priority, leading oral health charity the British Dental Health Foundation is encouraging students nationwide not to neglect their oral health.
Chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter, explained some of the ways in which students can take care of the basics.
Dr Carter said: ‘There were more than half a million applicants to university for places this year. Once you’ve got your A-Level results and you’ve confirmed your place, the planning begins. It’s easy to remember the essentials, and that should include oral health products.
‘For many people – around one in four – dental healthcare products are considered a luxury. Given the growing number of links between poor oral health and general health problems, dental health is anything but a luxury.
‘To help your money stretch further, ask mum, dad or granny for toothpaste, an electric toothbrush, replacement heads, interdental brushes or floss and mouthwash. These may not sound exciting or glamorous, but they’re very important.
‘Before you leave for university arrange an appointment with your dentist for a check-up. Once you get to your university home, take time out to find a dentist. University lifestyle can mean you’re more prone to accidents, and a healthy smile does wonders for the opposite sex. If you’re playing contact sport, make sure you get fitted for a gum shield.
‘Although you can’t get them fitted on the NHS, it’s worth the investment. You could lose teeth and suffer damage as the result of biting the tongue or the cheek. Biting the inside of the mouth can also lead to cuts that may require stitches. Fractures of the upper and lower jaw, cheekbones, eye sockets or any combination can have more serious consequences.
‘Until you’re 19 treatment is free, and after that you may be eligible for help with costs. Pop down to your local post office and request a HC1 form – you can apply for a 12-month exemption form and re-apply when it’s expired. Visit the NHS Choices website for a list of practices taking on new NHS patients.’
One of the major concerns regarding students is their diet. Takeaways, ready-meals, alcohol and junk food may seem tempting, but Dr Carter explained why cutting down on how often you have these could be a key component in succeeding.
‘It would be unrealistic to expect students to eat healthily all the time, but making sure you have a healthy, balanced diet is important for two reasons – it could be the key to getting higher grades, and it certainly will benefit your teeth. A diet rich in vitamins and minerals means anti-oxidants. In turn, this means a lower chance of getting gum disease, which in turn lowers the risk of tooth loss. Try to limit ready meals and takeaways, however tempting they may be. Always remember to brush for two minutes twice a day using a fluoride toothpaste too. It can easily be forgotten after a night in the student union.
‘Try to avoid vending machines on campus, too. They may be a quick source of food, but snacking throughout the day in lectures is not good for your teeth. Instead of snacking on food from vending machines, take nuts, pieces of cheese or raw vegetables. Always carry some sugar-free gum containing xylitol with you – it’ll help keep your mouth healthy in-between meals.’