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Your Complete Dental Health Care Guide

INFANTS & TODDLERS
KIDS
TEENS
ADULTS
SENIORS

INFANTS & TODDLERS
Dental Care Checklist

√ Take your infant to the dentist by age 1. Schedule your child's first dental visit by the age of 1 or after a first tooth erupts.

√ Clean your infant's gums. Use gauze to clean your baby's gums after feedings and at bedtime. Ideally, this should be done even before your child's first tooth erupts.

√ Brush baby teeth. Once your child's baby teeth erupt, brush them with a small soft-bristled toothbrush and a pea-sized amount of toothpaste after feedings and at bedtime.

√ Floss baby teeth. When two baby teeth erupt side by side, gently floss them at least once a day (preferably before bedtime).

√ Wean your baby from the bottle. Ask your pediatrician or dentist when you should stop breastfeeding. If your baby is bottle-fed, wean your child from the bottle by the age of 1.

Keep an eye on:

Baby Bottle Tooth Decay -- The health of your infant's baby teeth is important to the healthy growth of their permanent teeth. To keep your infant's teeth healthy be sure to clean them after feedings, and avoid putting your baby to bed with formula or fruit juice (these contain decay-causing sugars); use water instead.


Signs of Teething -- Your baby's first tooth can erupt, or "cut," as early as three months and as late as a year. On average, babies experience their first tooth at about 7-months old. The symptoms of teething can vary greatly from child to child, but if your baby becomes increasingly irritable or starts drooling, biting and coughing more than normal he or she could be teething. Try giving your baby a teething ring or bottle of cold water for relief. If the symptoms don't subside, ask your pediatrician about using Infants' Tylenol® or Baby Orajel®.

Excessive Pacifier Use -- Pacifiers are great for soothing your baby, helping your baby sleep and providing them with a harmless distraction. But if your infant uses a pacifier for more than three years, he or she may develop dental problems such as slanted teeth or a misaligned bite later on. If you have a difficult time weaning your baby from pacifier use, ask your dentist about alternative ways to give the comfort your child craves.

KIDS
Dental Care Checklist

√ Schedule regular dental exams and cleanings. Now that their permanent teeth are growing in, it's the perfect time to get kids used to healthy habits that are good for their teeth; that includes going to the dentist every six months!

√ Teach your kids how to brush and floss. By the time your child reaches the age of 6 he or she should have the coordination skills required to brush teeth. Teach your child proper tooth brushing techniques, which include short, up-and-down and back-and-forth strokes and brushing around their gum line. Teaching your child how to floss might be trickier, so you may want to buy floss picks to start off.

√ Look into dental sealants. Ask your dentist whether your child should get dental sealants for added protection against tooth decay.

√ Monitor fluoride use. Check to see if your community water supply is fluoridated. If not, ask your dentist about professional fluoride treatments for your child. Keep in mind that too much fluoride can cause dental fluorosis.

√ Ask your dentist about mouthwash. Ask your dentist whether your child should use mouthwash and which types are safe for children. Generally speaking, your safest bet will be an alcohol-free mouthwash made especially for children. When teaching your child how to rinse with mouthwash, be sure to demonstrate how to rinse without swallowing.

√ Prepare healthy meals and smart snacks. A nutritious, well-balanced diet is just as important for your child's teeth as it is for overall health. Instead of cookies, potato chips and ice cream, give your kids smart snacks such as fresh fruit and vegetables, unsalted pretzels, plain yogurt, nuts and low-fat cheese.

√ Schedule an orthodontic evaluation. Many orthodontists recommend that children receive a complete orthodontic evaluation by the age of 7.

Keep an eye on:

Bad Bite or Crooked Teeth -- When your child's permanent teeth grow in look out for crooked teeth bite problems such as an overbite, underbite or crossbite.

Prolonged Thumb-Sucking -- Thumb-sucking is a fairly common and generally benign habit among young children. However, if your child is still thumb sucking after the age of 5, speech and bite problems may start to develop. You can play an active role in helping your child break a thumb-sucking habit by establishing a reward system: Place stickers or gold stars on a calendar for each day your child doesn't suck his or her thumb and have a bigger celebration after a certain period of time.

TEENS
Dental Care Checklist

√ Get an exam and cleaning every six months. If you're a teen, you'd probably rather do anything but get a dental exam and cleaning. But the longer you put it off, the worse your teeth can get.

√ Keep brushing and flossing every single day. In addition to brushing and flossing at home, put together an oral hygiene toolkit to use at school. It may not seem cool, but neither is bad breath, cavities, tartar buildup or gum disease!

√ Drink plenty of fluoridated water. Instead of reaching for soda or energy drinks, drink filtered tap water instead (most community water supplies are fluoridated; bottled waters are not). If you're unsure about the tap water at your school, bring filtered water from home or get a water bottle with a built-in filter.

√ Maintain a well-balanced diet. Your bod isn't the only thing that benefits from nutritious meals -- so do your teeth! Opt for smart snacks like fresh fruit, cheese, unsalted pretzels and celery or carrot sticks instead of cookies, chips and candy bars.

√ Ask your dentist about mouthguards. If you play sports, it's important to protect your teeth during high and low- impact activity. Your dentist can provide recommendations for mouthguards -- both custom-made and over-the-counter -- so be sure to get expert dental advice about which mouthguard is best for you.

Keep an eye on:

Oral Piercing Infections -- More and more teenagers are getting their tongues and lips pierced, but studies show that oral piercings can cause a host of dental problems like cracked or chipped teeth, gum injuries and even nerve damage. If your teenager already has an oral piercing, make sure that regular dental visits and periodic teeth and gum checks are performed at home. If your teen is thinking about getting an oral piercing, schedule a dental visit beforehand for advice.

Gum Disease -- Gum disease may seem like a dental problem that affects only adults, but it often starts during puberty. Hormonal changes can cause your teen's gums to be extra sensitive, especially if your teen is female. Wearing dental braces can also make brushing and flossing difficult, leaving your teen's gums vulnerable to plaque and tartar buildup. So if you notice that your teen's gums are bleeding while flossing or that they have bad breath, schedule a dental appointment. Your dentist can make a proper diagnose and start your teen on gum therapy.

Eating Disorders -- Anorexia and bulimia are serious diseases that can cause great damage to your teeth as well as your body. If your teenager has been diagnosed with an eating disorder, you'll obviously want to get them the proper medical and psychological help they need. But don't forget to take your teenager to the dentist, too. A dentist can help with dental problems such as large cavities, mouth lesions and bleeding gums, which are commonly associated with eating disorders.

Canker Sores -- If your teenager wears braces, he or she may be more susceptible to developing canker sores. Canker sores often go away on their own, but practicing good oral hygiene and avoiding acidic foods can also help your teen fight off future outbreaks. If canker sores are causing your teenager extreme discomfort or last longer than three weeks, contact your dentist for help.

ADULTS
Dental Care Checklist

√ Visit your dentist regularly -- don't let visits slide! Adult life can sometimes be a juggling act and it may feel like you just can't find the time for a dental visit. But making time for regular dental visits now can help keep you out of the dental office in the future.

√ Brush and floss daily, even if you're tired. You've heard this a million times by now, but the importance of regular brushing and flossing can never be emphasized enough. Even if you've been good about your oral hygiene all your life, resist the temptation to let it slide for even one day; the longer plaque stays on your teeth the more harmful it becomes.

√ Limit fast food; eat well-balanced meals. When you're juggling work, home and kids, it can be easy to turn to fast food, soda and sugary snacks as a way to save time and feel more energetic. But sugar is a tooth decay demon and can cause you to crash after that initial "sugar high." Be sure to integrate plenty of fresh vegetables into your daily meals and eat fruit, nuts and celery or carrot sticks as snacks.

√ Exercise regularly; it's good for your teeth! Studies show that people who maintain a healthy lifestyle -- exercise and eating right -- are 40 percent less likely to develop periodontitis (advanced gum disease).

√ Consider treating yourself to cosmetic dentistry. Whether you want a quick boost or a complete smile makeover, there are plenty of cosmetic dental treatments available to help you achieve your dream smile. One-hour laser teeth whitening treatments can make your teeth 8-10 shades whiter, and porcelain veneers can mask stained teeth, chipped teeth or crooked teeth.

Keep an eye on:

Excessive Drinking -- It's common for adults to wind down their day with a glass of wine or a stiff cocktail. However, if you drink excessively you could be susceptible not only to alcoholism but also dental conditions such as oral cancer. Talk to your dentist if you think you could be at risk.

Smoking Risks -- In addition to lung cancer and birth defects, studies have shown that smoking cigarettes can also increase your chances of oral cancer and gum disease as well as tooth loss. Good oral hygiene practices and regular dental visits are even more crucial if you smoke, so be vigilant!

Hormonal Changes -- The hormonal changes caused by pregnancy can affect your teeth and gums. Some pregnant women develop gum tumors, but about 50 percent of pregnant women experience pregnancy gingivitis, which can turn into periodontal disease if left untreated. But remember, dental disease isn't inevitable. Practicing good oral hygiene habits can help reduce your risk and so can visiting the dentist every six months!

Diabetes Complications -- Adults 45 and older are at an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. If you're in this age group, the last thing you want to do is be lax about your health -- including your oral hygiene routine. Regular brushing and flossing are essential because the poor blood sucrose control associated with diabetes can make your gums more vulnerable to gum disease.

SENIORS
Dental Care Checklist 

√ Visit your dentist regularly. Hopefully, you've had a lifetime of professional dental care. Don't stop now! Just as these years might motivate you to take special care of your overall health, it's a good idea to give your teeth some extra attention, too. That means visiting your dentist regularly and practicing good oral hygiene habits at home. 

√ Get professional denture care. Over time, your dentures may start to loosen and shift while you talk or eat. You don't have to endure this discomfort, but you should seek your dentist's help rather than try to use an over-the-counter denture repair kit, which can damage your dentures. With a professional denture reline, your dentist can reshape your dentures so that they look and feel great again.

√ Switch to an electric toothbrush if necessary. Arthritis or a decline in mobility may make it difficult to brush your teeth. Using an electric toothbrush can help eliminate a lot of the physical movement required to brush manually, doing most of the work for you.

√ Consider dental implants to replace missing teeth. Dental implants are one of the most revolutionary dental treatments around. And with today's technology, you can sometimes get dental implants in a single visit! Many patients prefer dental implants over dentures because of their natural look and feel.

Keep an eye on:

Dry Mouth Symptoms -- Aging can inhibit proper saliva production, leaving your mouth susceptible to dry mouth syndrome. And if you have a systemic disease like diabetes and take medication, you may also be more likely to develop dry mouth. Talk to your dentist or physician if you notice symptoms occurring after taking medication. Avoiding salty foods, drinking plenty of water and limiting your caffeine and alcohol intake can provide relief, but be sure to talk to your dentist or physician before making changes to your diet.

Cavities -- Yes, seniors get cavities, too. In fact, seniors may be more susceptible to tooth decay because many didn't have access to a community fluoridated water system in their early years (community water fluoridation started in 1945). So remember: Good oral hygiene habits and regular dental visits are just as important, if not more, in your golden years.

Root Decay -- Not many people have heard of root decay. Root decay can develop when your gums recede enough to expose your tooth roots as well as the cementum that covers them. After prolonged exposure, your tooth roots can start to decay. Signs to look out for include a yellowish tint or "notches" near your gum line.

Tooth Stains -- No matter what age you are, plaque will always be waiting to attach to your teeth. But as you get older, plaque is quicker to build up and can become more difficult to remove. Brushing and flossing daily, especially before bedtime and in the morning, are essential for removing the plaque that builds up while you sleep. Consider using a plaque rinse, but be sure to consult your dentist first!

Sensitivity to Hot or Cold -- You may experience tooth sensitivity to hot or cold food and beverages as you age. Mild, occasional tooth sensitivity is normal to a certain degree because your gums naturally recede over time. However, if tooth sensitivity persists, it could be a sign that you have a cracked or broken tooth or gum disease. The surest way to ease, even eliminate tooth sensitivity, is to visit your dentist for an evaluation

 
 
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