A Lifetime of Smiles
It is important to consider your infant's oral health early-on. Even before their teeth start to come in, actions should be taken to care for their gums. Then, as their teeth begin to erupt, they should be properly cared for. How well their first set of teeth are maintained influences how their adult teeth come in, in later years.
In the first days after birth, you should begin gently wiping your baby's gums with a soft, clean, and moist cloth in the morning after the first feeding and again right before bed. As soon as you see teeth beginning to poke through their gums, you should brush them with a soft, small-bristled toothbrush and water, twice a day. Consult your doctor or dentist regarding the use of fluoride toothpaste for children under two years of age. Your child should begin seeing a dentist after their first tooth appears, but no later than their first birthday.
For information about infant oral health care, please visit the Mouth Healthy Babies and Kids page.
Introducing healthy oral habits from a young age helps ingrain them for a lifetime. Regular brushing, flossing, and dentist visits are key! As your child grows, it is important to take the steps to encourage them to care about their oral health because children are at high risk for cavities. This can be a source of pain and discomfort for your child. For this reason, consistent oral health care is essential.
Children aged three to six should use a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste to brush their teeth, twice a day for at least 2 minutes. Be sure to observe them brush and help them until they develop good brushing skills. When they have touching teeth, you should begin flossing between them daily.
Children 7 years and older should also brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, though they will require a larger amount, and floss at least once a day.
Additional information about caring for your child's teeth can be found on the Mouth Healthy Babies and Kids page.
Making learning about oral health a positive experience gets your child excited to practice good hygiene habits. For fun ways to teach your child about oral health, please visit the community toolkit.
As a growing teen, it is important to stop and take some time to properly care for your teeth. Everything from brushing, flossing, and possibly even braces are big players in maintaining a happy mouth. If your teeth are out of alignment, it may be more difficult to properly clean your teeth. In such cases, you can be prone to cavities or gum disease, so your dentist may recommend braces.
You may also have your wisdom teeth come in, usually between the ages of 17-21. If they pose a threat to your current teeth, your dentist will advise that they be removed. If not, they can remain.
Seeing the dentist every six months is a great way to monitor your oral health and identify any areas of concern before they develop into more serious issues. Practicing these healthy habits today will prevent painful problems in the future.
To learn more about protecting your smile, you can visit the Mouth Healthy Teens page.
Sometimes it may be difficult to remember to prioritize oral health with everything else going on in your daily life. Between work, family, and friends, you may not have much time to think about it. However, a conscious and active effort needs to be made to keep yourself at your very best. Oral health is an important aspect of overall health that should not be dismissed; ignoring it now can lead to more serious issues in the future. Preventative care is the most effective way to mitigate risks and ensure you are able to carry-on with your daily life. Remember, regular brushing, flossing, and dental visits are essential. Additional steps you can take include:
- Drinking fluoridated water
- Using fluoride toothpaste
- Abstaining from tobacco products
- Limiting alcoholic drinks
Often overlooked, oral health during pregnancy is important to maintain. A dentist should be seen regularly to ensure optimal health for you and your growing baby.
The changes that come with pregnancy may have an effect on your oral health. Increased risks include gum disease and cavities, due to tooth exposure to erosive stomach acids. To mitigate these risks:
- Brush your teeth twice a day
- Floss at least once a day
- Rinse your mouth for 30 seconds with 1 teaspoon of baking soda mixed into a glass of water after getting sick to wash away stomach acid, do not brush
- Maintain a balanced diet and drink lots of water
- Visit your dentist regularly
Be sure to talk to your provider early on about your baby's oral health as well!
More information about oral health during pregnancy can be found on the Pregnancy and Oral Health page.
Continuing to care for your smile is essential as you reach your golden years. There are some new areas of concern during this time, including:
- Dry mouth leading to cavities
- Gum disease
- Mouth cancer
- Dental implants
Along with regular brushing and flossing, dentist visits ensure optimal health for a happy life. A dentist can discuss these risk factors with you and recommend preventative actions you can take. For example, using oral moisturizers, changing medications, or chewing sugar-free gum are a few ways to help relieve dry mouth.
Maintaining these lifelong healthy habits is the most effective way to keep your smile healthy. It is important to note, Medicare does not cover routine dental care, so planning for expenses after retirement is highly recommended.
For additional resources regarding this topic, please visit the Mouth Healthy Adults Over 60 page.
Individuals with special healthcare needs may not prioritize their oral health when they have more pressing health issues they are dealing with, so it is important to remind them of its importance. Help them set up a routine to brush twice a day for two full minutes and floss at least once a day. Although they may experience difficulties, small changes such as using an electric toothbrush, a toothbrush with a thicker handle, or floss picks may make oral healthcare practices easier and more effective. Extra help from a caregiver may be needed to demonstrate proper technique, provide assistance with hard to reach areas, or perform the actions for them. Using the "tell-show-do" technique is a good practice to adopt when doing so.
A dentist should also be seen regularly. To locate a provider that specializes in treating individuals with special healthcare needs, visit the SDCA Dentist Referral page.
For additional information on this topic, please visit the Smile, California Caregivers page.