Healthy Habits for a Lifetime of Good Teeth
Every stage of life presents us with new challenges and opportunities. As you change and grow, so do your teeth. From early childhood into your senior years, your teeth require special care and attention; their needs can also change with your age. To take care of your children’s teeth through childhood and adolescence, and your own teeth throughout adulthood, follow these age-based oral health tips.
You may think that healthy baby teeth have no bearing on healthy permanent teeth – after all, baby teeth will simply fall out and be swiftly replaced by permanent teeth. Actually, baby teeth are crucial to the development of healthy adult teeth.
Most babies start to teethe between four and seven months of age, though some can start as early as three months or as late as 12 months. Baby teeth act as placeholders, ensuring that adult teeth will have enough room in the mouth when they grow in. They also help ensure correct speech development and facial structure.
Even before your baby’s teeth grow in, you should wipe his or her gums down with a soft, damp, clean cloth. This will prevent bacterial growth and set the foundation for a lifetime of healthy teeth. As soon as your baby starts teething, brush his or her teeth twice a day. Use a soft toothbrush designed especially for children, with a pea-sized amount of child’s toothpaste.
Be on the lookout for baby bottle tooth decay. This type of decay occurs when children are allowed to suck on sugary liquids – including liquids with natural sugars, like milk and fruit juice – for an extended period of time. Baby bottle tooth decay usually affects the front teeth, but it can affect back teeth as well. Instead of putting your child to bed with a bottle, make sure he or she finishes their sugary drink before bed.
Finally, your child should see a pediatric dentist at around one year old, though they can visit the dentist earlier if necessary. Your dentist should be able to give you more personalized instructions on how to take care of your child’s teeth.
As your child gets older, encourage him or her to brush his or her teeth twice a day. Supervise at first, then remind them to clean their teeth every morning and night when they’re old enough to do so on their own. Schedule dentist visits for your child twice annually to make sure his or her teeth are developing normally and to keep them clean.
Encourage your child to develop nutritious eating habits: limit his or her exposure to sugary snacks and drinks, like sodas and candies. This will minimize their risk of decay and keep their baby teeth in good condition as they wait for their permanent teeth to grow in.
Check that your independent teenager continues to brush and floss his or her teeth twice daily. Continue to schedule professional teeth cleaning dental visits for your teen at least twice a year.
Most teenagers need their wisdom teeth extracted to prevent crowding in the mouth. Don’t ignore your teen’s wisdom teeth. Removing wisdom teeth during the teenage years is often preferable since the wisdom teeth roots haven’t fully developed yet, which makes them easier to remove. Talk to your dentist about your teen’s wisdom teeth; he or she will be able to give you options specific to your child.
Even as an adult, you should carry on the good dental hygiene practices you employed when you were younger and encourage in your children: brush and floss your teeth twice daily, and visit your dentist twice a year.
Pregnant women should take particularly good care of their teeth, since the hormonal changes that accompany pregnancy can increase the risk of gum disease. Let your dentist know if you are pregnant, and follow a strict oral health regime. Avoid sugary foods and drinks as much as possible. If you notice any swelling, tenderness, or bleeding from your gums, schedule an appointment with your dentist.
As you age, previous dental fillings can start to weaken. Visit your dentist frequently and take good care of your teeth to catch cavities before they become a problem.
You might also take more medications or vitamins as you age, which can cause dry mouth. Dry mouth in turn can lead to cavities. Make sure to drink plenty of water. If you use anything to stimulate saliva production, such as candies or gum, choose a sugar-free variety to stay cavity-free.
Lifelong Dental Health
When you follow good oral hygiene practices and teach your children to do the same, you set yourself up for a lifetime of healthy, happy teeth. You also decrease your risk of heart disease (which has been linked to gum disease) and ensure yourself a longer, happier life.