Studying, Exams, and Tooth Decay

The stress of studying can put students’ teeth at risk of developing tooth decay.

A 2012 study examined the oral health of students during and after their exams. It showed that students under academic stress “had a higher level of tooth decay than those with low stress levels.”

The reasons had to do with the way students often behave during the exam period.

Study Behaviours That Put Teeth at Risk

  • During revision times, some students resort to grazing at their desks instead of taking full meals
  • Many students choose to consume sweet snacks to boost their energy levels. 
  • Students may also consume more sugary drinks during this period, particularly cola with caffeine or coffee with sugar. 
  • Students commonly study late into the night and may fall into bed exhausted without first brushing their teeth. 

This high-frequency consumption of sugary snacks and beverages will cause the amount of dental plaque on the teeth to increase, and thus the teeth are much more at risk of developing cavities.

By adding poor oral hygiene into the mix, it’s not surprising that the stressed students in this study experienced more tooth decay.

Recommendations for Students During Exam Time

Consider the following recommendations to minimise your risk of dental decay:

  • Try to snack on healthy foods like nuts or cheese, and drink water or unsweetened beverages. Beware of diet versions of soft drinks as these are highly acidic and can cause dental erosion. Check our articles about Diet and Dental Disease for more information about the relationship between food, beverages, and dental health.
  • Chew sugar-free gum to help wash away the sugars and neutralise the acidity after sugary snacks and drinks
  • Clean your teeth before going to bed. You may want to place your toothbrush and floss on your pillow as a reminder. 

Dr Teo welcomes your questions about keeping your teeth protected from decay during stressful times. Feel free to peruse our articles about brushing and flossing

Students May Also Be at Risk of Stress-Induced Damage to Teeth and Jaw Joints

Students who are experiencing academic stress may clench or grind their teeth, either while they study or while they sleep. The resulting intense pressure can damage teeth and fillings, cause headaches and facial pain, and affect the jaw joints and muscles.

If you think you’re experiencing the impact of stress-induced clenching, please feel free to make an appointment with Dr Teo to address your concerns.