Orthodontic Concerns When Your Child Goes to College

I just dropped my daughter off at college a week and a half ago in Arizona. Where has the time gone, and how did my little girl grow up so fast? Being the big tooth dork that I am, I went through a mental dental check list to make sure that she was all set, and hopefully would not have any dental issues to deal with since she is so far away. I thought this would be a good time to write an article on what parents may want to add to their own child’s checklist before their first big move away from home.

  • If they have had orthodontic treatment and their braces have been removed, make sure that they bring their retainers with them! I see patients that return from their first semester of college, and their parents see that they have not been wearing their retainers at night, and their teeth have started to shift and become misaligned. Amid the excitement and stress of being away from home for the first time, it is common for kids to stop wearing their retainers during this period of time. In general, we recommend wearing retainers at night for life, as teeth will most always tend to wander as we age, whether you have had orthodontic work or not. Remind your children who have recently moved to continue their retainer wear, as this will avoid the cost of replacing the retainers, or even having to return to braces or aligners if their teeth have shifted substantially.
  • If they loose or break a retainer while away, call your orthodontist immediately! Depending on the timing and their location, we will help you find the help you need to keep your teeth aligned and protected.
  • We also have young adults who are still in orthodontic treatment when they head off to college. If their school is relatively local to castle Rock and the Denver area, we can continue to see them on a regular basis. We have had several kids who attended a college far enough away that we had to work out a schedule with a more local orthodontist to see them while they were out of state. Of course, we would like to finish them before their big move away, but life does happen, and it is important to make a plan with your orthodontist if college and orthodontic treatment overlaps.
  • It is always a good idea to have a cleaning and dental exam/cavity check before heading off to college. As with retainers, this can be a time in life where the basics seem to slip, and it is important to keep up with proper dental health and regular care.
  • My daughter started to have sensitivity in her wisdom teeth (third molar) areas several months before she left for college. We made an appointment to have a consult with an oral surgeon, and had the wisdom teeth removed several weeks before she left. One think to be aware of: oral surgeons are usually very busy during the summer months, and you may have to wait longer for procedures during this time of the year. We waited a bit to long, and certainly added some stress to my daughter’s life as she had swollen cheeks right up until the day we headed out to college. Your dentist or orthodontist can let you know if getting third molars extracted are recommended or not at this age.
  • This can also be the age where your child may reach the point where they are not covered under your dental health insurance. This could impact your dental, orthodontic, or oral surgery coverage. Insurance plans and coverage vary, so it is a good idea to check how long your children are under your insurance umbrella.

I hope this helps. Having my first child move away was emotional for all of us, and worrying about teeth was the last thing on her mind. But being prepared will help protect your family’s orthodontic investment and beautiful smile!

 

Dr Dan Rejman is an orthodontic specialist in private practice in Castle Rock, Colorado. Four of his own children have had, or are in, orthodontic treatment!