Oral Care: Different Concerns at Different Ages

Twooth-TimerWe all know how important taking care of our teeth is as adults, but proper oral care actually starts in the crib and changes as our teeth mature.


According to, we should start to take care of our children’s teeth when they’re still using a bottle or nursing, and be aware of the effect that certain antibiotics can have on their teeth before they’re even born. For instance, tetracycline can cause the child’s teeth to discolor when taken by the mother during the second half of the pregnancy or while nursing. And Colgate recommends not allowing children to fall asleep with a bottle containing sugars such as milk, juices, and formula. These sugars pool around the teeth and create an environment of bacteria that can cause tooth decay. A bottle with water in it, or a dentist recommended pacifier, are better options. They also caution against long periods of nursing.


Fluoride is also important to developing teeth. Most municipalities add it to their water supplies, but if yours doesn’t (or doesn’t add enough), or you’re on well water, your dentist/pediatrician can prescribe fluoride drops.

Once the Primary teeth begin to come in, brushing with a soft polished nylon bristle toothbrush and flossing should start. A fluoridated toothpaste can be used at the age of two, with care to be sure the child doesn’t swallow it. And flossing should start as soon as two teeth touch each other. Letting the child brush his/her own teeth is fine, but be aware that kids don’t really do a good job of brushing their own teeth until they’re about 8, so we should re-brush until that point.

As the permanent teeth begin to come in, brushing, flossing, and diet continue to be important. The bacteria that create the acids that cause tooth decay feed on sugars. So whether they’re eating candy bars or breads, the bacteria are being fed. Sugars & carbs should be limited or replaced with fresh fruits, veggies, and cheeses whenever possible and the teeth should be brushed after meals and snacks. If brushing isn’t possible, rinsing the mouth with water can help.


Teenagers need to be aware not only of the health ramifications of poor oral health, but that it can cause bad breath and tooth loss. Again, snacks should be limited to fresh fruits, veggies, and cheeses and brushing/flossing should be a habit. Soft drinks should also be limited, as they’re being shown to be a significant source of tooth decay.


As an adult, the keys to good oral health are the same: brushing, flossing, and limiting sugary/starchy snacks. It’s also important to recognize the signs of gum disease and understand its relationship to such things as heart disease, diabetes, and premature births. Red, swollen, or bleeding gums when brushing the teeth are signs that should not be ignored. Adults may also experience “recurrent decay” (decay around fillings) or root decay, so a fluoride toothpaste remains important.


Seniors have a couple of additions that can affect oral health, namely dentures, medications, and general health issues. At this point brushing and flossing remain very important, but working with your doctors/dentist to help deal with these added factors becomes important as well.

Overall, our teeth face different issues throughout our lives. Keeping them healthy starts with developing good habits such as brushing and flossing early on, and continuing those habits throughout our lifetime. It’s also important to be aware of the effect that diet, age related health issues, and certain medications can have on our oral health. Given what we’re finding out about how our oral issues affect our overall health, these are things worth paying attention to, regardless of our age.

Written by: Tricia Doane, FizzNiche Staff Writer

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