The Seeds of Good Oral Health
As we grow, our oral health needs continue to evolve. Cultivate strong teeth by planting the seeds for good oral health early and knowing what to watch for at different life stages.
Babies and Toddlers
Baby teeth are susceptible to cavities and need daily upkeep from the very beginning. Before the first tooth arrives, wipe your baby's gums with a soft, clean cloth after each feeding to get rid of unwanted bacteria.1 When the first tooth appears, brush with fluoride toothpaste and toothbrushes designed for babies and younger children. For children under 3, use no more toothpaste than the size of a grain of rice and no more than a pea-sized amount for kids between 3 and 6 years old.2 Babies should also have their first dentist appointment six months after their first tooth or before age 1.3
During these early years, it's crucial that children learn oral health routines that will keep their smiles healthy into adulthood. Teach your little one good habits early by demonstrating how to brush, reiterating the need to brush for two full minutes twice a day and making it fun (try playing music during your brushing session or rewarding your child with a sticker for remembering to brush).4
Children and Adolescents5
Childhood and adolescence are the times to reinforce good habits and take steps to guard against common mouth issues. Supervise your child's brushing until age 8 and flossing until age 10. You can also talk with the dentist about preventive measures like sealants to protect against cavities and mouth guards to protect from mouth injuries.
The risk of cavities is highest in adolescents for multiple reasons, including immature enamel, unhealthy diet and lack of oral health care.6 To help, make sure your child sticks with good oral health practices like brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, flossing once daily, choosing healthy snacks, drinking fluoridated water and visiting the dentist regularly.
In addition, pay attention to gum health as adolescence is often the time when gingivitis begins. Symptoms like gum redness, swelling, bleeding and tenderness can indicate the presence of gingivitis.7 Alert the dentist if any of these symptoms are present.
As an adult, the wear and tear your teeth experience over time can become noticeable by causing symptoms like discoloration, cavity susceptibility8 and tooth cracks or chips.9 Keep them strong by maintaining a proper oral health routine that includes brushing and flossing daily, eating mouth-friendly foods and scheduling regular dental visits.
Avoid harmful substances like tobacco and excessive alcohol consumption that put you at higher risk for oral cancer, which occurs most often after age 60.10 Take steps to reduce your risk for oral cancer and lookout for early signs with home screenings. Mouth symptoms can include sores, red or white patches, persistent pain or numbness, lumps or rough spots, and issues chewing and swallowing.11 If you experience any of these symptoms for longer than two weeks, speak to your dentist.
Another factor to consider is that the nerves in your teeth may grow less sensitive, making it less likely that you'll notice the development of cavities.12 Maintain regular checkups so your dentist can catch any mouth issues early before they progress.
Good oral health requires dedication, but by tending to your mouth with care, you can keep your smile healthy at any age.