As our bodies grow and change when we get older, so do our teeth. That’s why it’s important to pay attention to these changes and adjust our dental hygiene focuses throughout our lives.
Developing good habits from a young age is a great start, but people can face different challenges at different stages of life when it comes to dental care.
Here’s what you should know and how to overcome these challenges so you can maintain a healthy smile for years to come.
Infants & Toddlers
Baby teeth begin to erupt around 6 months of age, and all 20 are typically grown in by the time a child is about 3 years old. Parents should begin brushing children’s teeth with a soft-bristled toothbrush and a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste when they start to come in.
Pro-Tip: Never put a baby to bed with a bottle of milk or formula. If they fall asleep with it in their mouth, cavities known as baby bottle tooth decay can form. Opt for water at night, instead.
Permanent teeth begin to erupt around age 6, and all 32 are typically finished coming in by age 12. Regular 6-month dental checkups and cleanings are important at this stage and will help prevent cavities and other problems later on.
This is also the age at which you’ll be able to tell if a child needs braces. Orthodontic treatment may be recommended to treat misaligned teeth or jaws.
Wisdom teeth are the last four teeth to erupt, typically in the late teens or early twenties. Since they are notorious for causing all sorts of issues like crowding, pain, and infection, your dentist will monitor them to see if they need to be removed.
The teenage years are also typically when sports become a little rougher and teeth are at a higher risk for damage. Sports dentistry deals with preventing and treating dental injuries in athletes, and often includes mouthguard recommendations.
By the time we reach adulthood, we generally have our dental hygiene routines down — we brush and floss twice a day, and see our dentists for regular checkups and cleanings.
However, the two most common dental problems adults face are cavities and gum disease. We can do our best to prevent these issues by eating a healthy diet in addition to regular brushing, flossing, and dental appointments.
Adulthood is also when you’ll see people opting for cosmetic procedures, like teeth whitening, veneers, and bonding.
As we age, different types of dental problems become more common. Dry mouth is one of them, and can be caused by medical conditions, certain medications, or just aging in general. Dentists typically recommend things like saliva substitutes or simply drinking plenty of fluids.
Dentures and dental implant procedures are more common among the elderly, too, usually as options to replace lost teeth.
From infancy to our golden years, dental care remains an important, lifelong practice. Focusing on what affects our teeth at different stages of our lives helps us to keep them healthy throughout all of the changes we’ll experience along the way.