This guest post was written exclusively for Pack for Israel by Dr. Rachel David, an American trained dentist and founder of, a platform offering concierge dental services to Israel GAP year students.

When I speak to people about “gap year” and “teeth” I am always met with the response, “Oh, my teeth were a mess when I came back from Israel for the year. I had 8 fillings that needed to be done!” Others reported 5 fillings, others reported 10.

Why does this happen?

Dietary changes: Sugar

Sugar is the big culprit that leads to tooth decay. The bacteria in the mouth interacts with the sugars you eat to produce acid which eats away at your teeth to cause tooth decay and infections. Gap year students are notorious for increasing their sugar intake while they are away from home. There are no nutritionally balanced home cooked meals that you are used to and lots of freedom to eat what you would like and what “tastes good” which usually means that there is a lot of sugar. What some people don’t understand is that carbohydrates are also broken down to sugars. So a bag of potato chips that gets stuck in your teeth can be just as harmful as sugary sweets.

Enter Saliva

Saliva is an important factor in preventing tooth decay. Saliva has buffering capabilities which neutralize the acid that is caused by sugar. Having a steady and healthy salivary flow is important in combatting tooth decay.

Frequency over Quantity

Dietary changes during your gap year are inevitable. However, there are some things that you can control to minimize tooth decay during your year in Israel. Frequency over quantity is an important concept. Eating large quantities of sugar over a short period of time is much better for your teeth than slowly eating sugar throughout the day, even if the quantity is lower. Once the pH in your mouth is low (meaning there is a lot of acid), it is low and saliva will buffer it when you are finished.

If you suck on a sugary candy or drink a coffee with sugar throughout the day, you don’t give the saliva a chance to neutralize the acids produced by those sugars. You will have an acidic environment in your mouth the whole day which will eat away at your teeth. Salivary levels are lower when you sleep. If you finish eating your whole sugar party right before you go to sleep, there is no chance for the saliva to buffer the acid in your mouth.

Changes in Routine

Staying up later, eating late at night and close to when you go to bed keeps your mouth acidic for longer and does not allow sufficient time for the saliva to buffer the acid. Gap year students also don’t have a parent around to remind them to brush and floss well and regularly. While this is not a problem for everyone, some students really need the reminder to maintain good oral hygiene. Some students who use an electric toothbrush at home, may choose not to bring it to their dorm rooms. Another aspect which is often overlooked is the fact that gap year students usually do not visit their dentist at the recommended intervals. This can lead to detrimental effects that excess plaque buildup causes, and can also lead to cavities being missed in their early stages.

Prevention is Key

In Dentistry, prevention is key. Regular cleanings and checkups are so important to maintaining good oral health. Incipient decay that is caught early is often times reversible. Small cavities that are filled are far less painful and less costly than if they develop into teeth that need a root canal. Plaque and tartar that is professionally removed in a timely fashion can prevent periodontal disease. By prioritizing preventive care, you can ensure your dental wellness remains intact despite the challenges of a gap year.

Empowering Dental Wellness

Don't be among the majority who regret the toll their gap year took on their teeth. Through proper education and implementation, you can safeguard your original teeth in their pristine condition. By prioritizing oral hygiene practices, making mindful dietary choices, and staying consistent with dental check-ups, you can navigate your gap year while maintaining optimal dental health.

About the Author

Dr. Rachel David is an American trained dentist licensed to practice dentistry in Israel. Since moving to Israel, she recognized a need for specialized dental care for gap year students. In response, she established, a platform offering concierge dental services and membership packages designed to promote dental health during the gap year experience. These memberships provide invaluable benefits including access to professional advice, complimentary unlimited exams, regular cleanings, and more. You can contact Dr. David by phone/WhatsApp at 054-782-2880 or by email at