Age-specific dental care habits are important.
Maintaining good oral health is more than just having a bright, white smile. Having healthy teeth and gums is a cornerstone of overall physical health, equally important from infancy to the golden years.
Every adult, and even most kids, already know about the importance of brushing and flossing regularly and eating a healthy diet to keep teeth strong, but there’s more to consider for achieving optimal dental health. In fact, proper dental habits are a little bit different for every stage of life.
Whether your baby just got their first tooth or a grandparent just got their first set of dentures, knowing which age-specific dental care habits are important for the stage of life you or your family members are in will ensure confident, beautiful smiles for years to come.
Babies and Kindergarteners—Ages 6 months to 5 years
Dental needs aren’t complicated for babies up to about 5 years of age, but keeping up with the basics is vitally important for future oral health.
For babies, you’ll want to:
- Wash their gums to keep their mouth and erupting teeth clean
- Begin gentle brushing once teeth start to come in
- Schedule baby’s first dentist appointment after the first tooth comes in
- Limit thumb-sucking behavior and pacifier use (speak with your pediatrician)
- Instill a “no bottle while sleeping” rule to prevent tooth decay
- Keep sugary drinks out of bottles
Once you’re into the toddler and young child phase, you’ll want to:
- Encourage twice-daily supervised brushing sessions
- Begin using a kid-friendly fluoride toothpaste for kids 3 and older
- Maintain dentist visits every six months
At this age, it’s really important to set your children up for success by teaching them the importance of tooth care and showing them that their dentist is a friend.
School-Age Children—Ages 6 to 12 years
As children enter first grade, dental care remains relatively the same.
You should continue to:
- Supervise brushing and flossing sessions
- Use fluoride toothpaste and a proper dentist-recommended toothbrush
- Visit the dentist every six months to keep an eye on any issues
- Consider a sealant treatment to fight off cavities
- Ensure your child’s primary teeth are coming in properly
- Purchase mouth guards for sports activities
A huge change in your child’s mouth during this time involves losing primary (baby) teeth. Most children will lose all of their primary teeth during this time, with the second and third molars coming in later.
As their permanent teeth come in, your dentist may recommend braces, retainers, or some other treatment to correct crooked teeth.
Pre-Teens and Teens—Ages 13 to 18 years
Most pre-teens will have all of their permanent teeth, except for their wisdom teeth, by the time they are 13. At this point, your pre-teen is well-aware of the importance of brushing and flossing. Although you no longer need to supervise, it’s still a good idea to check in and make sure they are keeping up with their daily oral care habits.
During this time, you’ll want to:
- Make sure your teen is still seeing the dentist every six months
- Encourage a healthy diet at home as much as possible
- Limit sugary drinks in the home
- Educate them about the oral health dangers of smoking
- Educate them about the potential for tooth damage caused by oral piercings
If your teen has crooked teeth but no braces, now is a good time to speak with your dentist about orthodontic treatments. It may even be possible for older teens to get Invisalign if they’re worried about their appearance.
Your teen’s dentist will also keep an eye on their wisdom teeth and may recommend extracting them during this time.
Adulthood—Ages 19 to 65 years
Dental care in adulthood is all about prevention and maintenance. Try your best to stay away from alcoholic beverages, soda, and other acidic and/or sweet drinks. The same idea applies to your diet. Be sure to brush and floss twice a day or even after every meal. If you’ve lost the habit of twice-daily brushing, make a reminder on your phone to alert you.
You’ll want to:
- Make time to visit your dentist every six months
- Have a professional cleaning every six months to keep plaque at bay
- Ask your dentist about safe dental whitening options
- Consult your dentist about oral care during pregnancy
- Remove wisdom teeth if they’re impacted
- Inform your dentist of any TMJ or tooth-grinding habits
- Ask your dentist about cosmetic dentistry options for your ideal smile
Some common issues that pop up during early, mid, and late adulthood tend to revolve around treating dental issues before they become serious, as well as cosmetic dentistry procedures. It’s tempting to put off treatment when you’re busy with your life and family, but it’s crucial that cavities, chips, and decay are addressed now before they end up becoming a root canal or even a total extraction.
Pre-schedule your six-month checkups and consider getting your teeth cleaned every six months rather than annually. You can also ask your dentist about sealant treatments and other options to reduce the chance of decay.
Senior citizens will generally follow a basic oral health regimen, though individuals may have dentures, partials, and similar fixtures in place that can alter a normal routine. Some individuals may also be predisposed to issues, such as dry mouth, due to medications they are taking.
You’ll want to:
- Continue with a complete brushing and flossing regimen
- Consider an electric toothbrush if you have limited movement
- Take care of your implant-supported or partial dentures according to dentist instruction
- See your dentist every six months as usual, even if you have dentures
- Consult your dentist immediately if you experience soreness from your dentures
- Ask your dentist for advice if you have dry mouth
Oral health doesn’t change drastically in the senior years, unless you happen to get dentures. Caring for implant-supported and partial dentures properly includes daily cleaning, removing them for at least four hours a day, and brushing around your mouth when they’re out. Your dentist will instruct you on proper care when you get your dentures.
Don’t make the mistake of believing that you only need to see your dentist annually because you have dentures. It’s important to maintain biannual visits in order for your dentist to screen for early signs of cancer, check your periodontal health, and ensure your dentures are still properly fitted.
If you don’t have dentures, or you just have a partial, you’ll want to brush and floss at least twice a day and report any dental issues or toothaches to your dentist as soon as possible. Seniors tend to have a more sensitive immune system, so it’s vital that any decay or other risks of infection are dealt with quickly.
Finding a Dental Practice for Everyone in Your Family
Ensuring every individual in your family is getting the right dental care for their age is easier with a family dentist on your side to guide you. Family dentistry offers a huge benefit of comprehensive dental care under one roof for all families, large and small.
Dr. Sadeghi and her team at First Dental Associates are ready to help you and your family keep your smiles shining bright, whether your family member is 5 or 55. If you’re looking for a compassionate and experienced dentist to help your family with age-specific dental needs, you can learn more about becoming a First Dental Associates patient by clicking here.