Common Dental Mistakes People Make in Their 20s & 30s

How many of you went through your teen years wearing metal braces with the goal of straight teeth, and thought your teeth would stay straight forever? And, chances are, you haven’t worn your retainer since the day after you graduated high school, either, right? And now your teeth are shifting back to their crooked place. If you had only listened to your orthodontist!

Now here’s your new reality. Deep breath. Your parents aren’t helping pay for your orthodontic bills anymore and what you’re not paying attention to now could cost you a whole lot in the future. And let’s face it; most twenty-somethings are financially overextended. Prioritizing expenses often means juggling priorities: rent, groceries, and your best friend’s bridal shower (and bachelorette party and wedding). Unfortunately, this means tackling important health preventative measures is often pushed to the bottom of your “must do” list. But, here’s the real deal–don’t make common dental care mistakes that will haunt you later in life.

Brushing, flossing, regular cleanings, and x-rays help prevent everything from cavities to gingivitis and receding gums. But did you also know that alignment issues such as snaggle tooth, rogue tooth, extra spaces, and even crowding can lead to more serious health issues such as periodontal disease and even tooth loss? Neither did we. 

New York-based orthodontist Dr. Jennifer Stachel confirms, “Teeth that are not aligned properly in your mouth cause what dentists call ‘malocclusion.’ Left untreated, malocclusion can lead to periodontal disease and create abnormal amounts of stress on teeth and jaws, which leads to premature wear.”  

It’s important to recognize that straightening treatments are not solely for cosmetic purposes; it will also warn off potential health issues at the same time as straightening teeth. Dr. Stachel also said that crowding or spacing can lead to a buildup of tartar and plaque and possibly lead to periodontal disease. Overbites, open bites, and crossbites can lead to anything from excessive wear and chipping to gum recession. If these conditions worsen and result in periodontal disease, you’re also increasing the risk for atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (hardening of the arteries).

Keep in mind that Invisalign (a series of virtually invisible, removable aligners that gradually straighten teeth over time) also offers an express treatment that is a quick, affordable option specifically designed for minor teeth-straightening issues. Results from this treatment can be seen in as little as 10 weeks using only five sets of clear aligners. A good solution for those who forgot to wear their retainers regularly over the years!

Now, about teeth maintenance…

“I think the most common mistake I see in patients in their twenties and thirties is that they’re not paying attention to their oral health,” said Shaheen Khan, D.M.D. in Tinley Park, Illinois. “It’s important to see your dentist every six months for a check up and cleaning so you can avoid any major issues.”

Just how much do regular cleanings and other procedures cost? We asked several dentists around the country to find out what people should expect to pay for dental care.


CLEANING: On average $175, but can range between $120-480

X-RAYS: $110-150

FILLINGS: Between $140-350 depending on the surface

ROOT CANAL: $800-1400

CROWN: $1000-1500 

“Oral hygiene is linked to heart disease and also an indicator of your overall well-being, so it’s just as important to keep it healthy by brushing twice a day, flossing once a day, and making sure you’re getting in for x-rays and cleanings,” said Dr. Khan.

Similarly, when considering dental costs keep in mind that insurance plans greatly vary and most offices will not accept HMO’s. Dr. Khan went on to say, “If you have a PPO, preventative care such as a cleaning, exam, and x-rays will generally be covered 100%. Anything beyond that, you will need to pay your deductible and restorative work such. Fillings, for example, are covered at 80% and major work such as root canal and crowns are 50%.”

Money-saving tip: many dentist offices will offer cheaper fees if it’s your first visit or if you saw a review on Yelp (or other similar sites), so be sure to call around!


1. Drink your coffee or tea through a straw to decrease the contact to reduce tooth staining.

2. Wine night? Bring on the cheese! The acid from wine or citrus foods can break down tooth enamel. Eating some cheese or drinking some milk can replenish good minerals for your teeth after a meal.

3. Baby on the way? Talk to your dentist to get information about steps you can take to provide the best care for your little one. 

4. Time to get advice. If a mouth sore lasts for more than two weeks, tell your dentist about it.

5. Debating over investing in dental procedures or finally straightening your teeth? Remember that you use your teeth every day (and hopefully for your entire life–if you take care of them!). Do you wear those expensive shoes you splurge on every day? We’re guessing no. The value of a beautiful smile is priceless. Invest in yourself!

Thank you to our Contributing Experts: Dr. Jennifer Stachel, Dr. Shaheen Khan, and third-year dental students Jenna Lindauer, Elisabeth Nicholson, and Mary Pham

We’ve partnered up with the makers of Invisalign clear aligners, but all opinions expressed are our own. Full disclosure: