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Expected Dental Challenges - 18-30 Years Old

The early part of this period is overshadowed by the body’s attempt to erupt Wisdom Teeth into the mouth.

The normal eruptive period for wisdom teeth is 18-26 years old, although we see many wisdom teeth erupt earlier than 18 these days. There is seldom enough room for the wisdom teeth to erupt without causing movement of other teeth throughout the mouth if there is room for eruption at all. Even if the teeth actually find their way into the mouth, proper cleaning is a significant challenge for most people at home. Many dental plans are not in force if the young person is not in school, so extraction is usually sought early in this period before the young person moves away. Unerupted wisdom teeth are associated with several non painful disease conditions that can destroy quite a bit of bone later in life. As well, unerupted wisdom teeth are quite difficult to remove outside of this period so should be removed before 30 years old if minimal pain after extraction and healing time is a priority to the patient. Each case is different, so you will need advice specific to your case from your dentist so you can decide how to proceed with your wisdom teeth.

Many young people go off to university, college, or some other training away from home during the 18-30 years old period. This change can present challenges for the teeth. We have seen that quite a few young people like to sip a soda pop while in class. Some pick up a hard candy habit. As I have said before, the total amount of sugar is really not nearly as much a factor as how long sugar is in contact with the teeth that really influences development of tooth decay. Keep in mind that a sip of soda pop will immediately make the mouth more acidic because of the bubbles in the pop which are carbonic acid. This starts the dissolution of tooth structure that is tooth decay. Next, the sugar in the soda pop feeds the bacteria in the mouth including the type of bacteria that make acid. The acid producing bacteria in dental plaque eat whatever you eat and put out acid as a byproduct of life. It is acid from dental plaque that causes tooth decay not sugar directly. Dental plaque is the soft white stuff that builds up on the teeth after a few hours since they were brushed last. The bacteria that make up dental plaque eat any kind of food, but they grow fastest (make the most acid) when sugar is present. One mouth full of something sweet provides enough food supply for about 20 minutes of production of acid by plaque. So, if a person sips a soda pop once every twenty minutes for several hours, destruction of tooth structure is at its worst. If a person is going to drink a soda pop, just drink it and be done with it. Rinsing with water afterwards even if the water is simply swallowed minimizes the damage caused by drinking a can of soda pop. Hard candy is similar. The person who can’t stand to suck a candy until it is gone but has to crunch it will have much less damage due to tooth decay than the person who likes to suck the candy until it is gone. And to you people who work outside in the winter, Halls is hard candy, unless you use the sucrose free Halls.

The mid to late 20’s is when most people begin to floss regularly. This greatly reduces the number of cavities that are encountered in this period and throughout life. Cleaning at home is very easy during this period because manual dexterity is good and mouth opening is also good.

Many people like to bleach their teeth during this period at home. There is minimal root exposure during this period so bleach causes the least sensitivity now. Bleaching teeth has been around for over 30 years. The safety of the products currently available over the counter is well documented. The bleaching agents provided by the dentist are often a higher concentration of active ingredient than the over the counter products. There has been over 30 years of research on the concentration sold over the counter, less on the stronger concentrations. If you bleach your teeth, you can expect varying degrees of sensitivity of the teeth. Fluoride gel will reduce the severity of sensitivity and will make it go away quicker, but in time the sensitivity will subside with or without fluoride gel. Fluoride gel is readily available in Canada without a prescription and is sold at most pharmacies. Prevident by Colgate is the most common product you will find in this area. Bleaching is done at some offices using a very powerful agent that bleaches very quickly in the dental chair. Only some of the whitening effect of bleaching is permanent, meaning the teeth spontaneously return part way to their original shade. Bleaching done at home requires more patient effort, but costs less, and returns to the original shade less than bleaching done quickly in the office. If you are interested in whitening your teeth, you should ask your dentist about the options.

- This article was written by Dr. Mike Christensen and published in the Daily Miner and News, and Enterprise. Local Kenora News Publicatons (1998-2006)

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