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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.

 
 
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