Young adulthood is the period when proper early care makes the most significant impact. Those who have not learned how to brush or floss properly will become concerned about bleeding gums, bad breath, removal of unnecessary wisdom teeth, and their first bout with a real toothache. This is also the stage during which exploring or new activities lead to accidents requiring swift and expensive action to ensure proper dentition preservation. This period is also when those who had braces and did not practice proper oral hygiene will require cosmetic work. The growth spurt is nearing its end or is complete, and implants’ placement to replace missing teeth can start.
For many, this is the time when they find themselves in a place other than home for purposes of college, job, or relationships. Many will neglect dental care by trying to save money or by not spending. Some have skipped out on the extraction of wisdom teeth earlier and now find that they will have to take time off from their job or school to pursue extractions and recovery.
Those who had never had a bad dental experience and did not practice the habit of brushing after all meals and flossing twice per day will start to struggle with bad breath, gum disease, and cavities. Long hours on the job or at school make the terrible habits worse. Treatment by the dentist for repeated bouts of teeth and mouth infections is commonplace. Those with good habits may try to improve their teeth by doing bleaching or cosmetic bonding.
Braces and Dental Care
Braces make performing proper hygiene more complex, and I always recommend that during active orthodontic treatment, instead of cleanings twice per year, the patient receives cleanings four times per year. The savings of proper oral hygiene and the need for minor gum surgery afterward will more than pay for the two additional treatments per year.
Without proper and additional hygiene measures, the breakdown of enamel around the brackets will result in the enamel’s deterioration. The process is similar to the breakdown from pregnancy or excessive soda use without proper and immediate brushing and flossing afterward.
Activities That Pur Your Teeth At Risk
Motorcycling, partying, skiing, contact sports of all types, seizures, and altercations can lead to the immediate destruction or loss of teeth. This will need immediate treatment to minimize the damage, and many young people may not have saved up an emergency fund for a situation like this.
Many end up in later years spending tens of thousands of dollars to take care of defects that they were unable to take care of at the time of the emergency. Others will end up in dentures or temporary appliances of various types. These temporary measures can affect the social life of a young adult and decrease their self-confidence.
Even Dentist Have Poor Dental Habits As Young Adults
One of the rites of passage from being a dental student to being a dentist is practicing a procedure for the first time on your lab partner. We practiced impressions on each other. We practiced cavity detection on each other. We practiced injections on each other. One day, my lab partner was doing a periodontal (gum disease) evaluation on me.
“Bert! You have gum disease!”
“What,” I said.
“Gum disease. You have bleeding, lots of bleeding points. Have you ever been treated for gum disease?”
“No,” I said. “How bad is it?”
“You have some pocketing and bleeding from the pockets. Here, let me go over it with you.”
I spent numerous visits in the clinic getting my gum disease treated and perfecting my brushing and flossing techniques. It was disheartening, and I felt lousy for neglecting my dental health for so long. I was happy that I did not have to go through the trauma of extractions again because of my neglect.
Gum Disease in Young Adults
Young adults often ignore a bloody toothbrush, but that is a mistake. Gum disease starts slowly and painlessly. In smokers, it can be undetected because of nicotine’s effect in constricting blood flow; therefore, they may not see bleeding as readily as nonsmokers. Smokers also need more regular check-ups to detect oral cancers.
A traditional cleaning will not be sufficient to decrease gum disease. Additional treatment of scaling and root planing with local anesthesia and/or conscious sedation may be needed. You may need repeated treatments or more advanced surgery. More than two visits to the dentist per year may be required to keep gum disease at bay. Sulcular (space between the tooth and the gum) and oral antibiotics, as well as rinses, may be necessary. A visit with a periodontist (dental specialist in treating gum disease) is in order in cases that do not respond appropriately. Gum disease is the most common cause of bad breath.
Dealing With Toothaches
Toothaches can occur for the first time during this transitional time. As I refer to it, a real toothache is one in which decay breaks down the teeth to the point where bacteria get into the nerve and cause irreversible pulpitis(inflammation of the tooth pulp). The options at this time do not include a filling; remove the tooth’s nerve or extract the tooth.
The removal of the nerve and subsequent post buildup and then a crown usually takes care of the problem, but the dentist will usually do an extraction if it does not. Filling the extraction site with bone-grafting material preserves the bone, and in several months a replacement tooth implant can be placed.
Cosmetic Dentistry for Young Adults
Altercations or on-the-job accidents can cause broken teeth, and the treatment usually requires some type of cosmetic restoration of the teeth. Some teeth may need to be extracted if the fracture line extends below the gum into the supporting bone. Other teeth may need root canal treatment if the fracture is just into the nerve of the tooth. We can treat an un-salvageable tooth with an immediate implant that can have a temporary done immediately after placement. Grafting helps to maintain or create new bone for the implant’s order or provide the bone’s shape, removing large spaces that trap food when using a dental bridge.
Delivering a denture or removable prosthesis to a patient can be very stressful for both doctor and patient for the first time. Sometimes a denture is all they can afford.
I feel very sad when I have to remove a tooth with no cavities because trauma has made it non-restorable. The last choice for a patient is to leave the dentist with the missing tooth’s space unoccupied.
I feel a sense of loss and a bit of remorse when I assist a patient in losing a part of their body, albeit a tooth. After all, someone who loses a part of their body is starting a journey. This is the beginning of a long road that is going in the wrong direction.