By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
In Good Health spoke with three local dentists, who discuss the main dental concerns affecting people according to their age.
6 months to 4 years
“Generally, at 6 months, they should be seeing their pediatric dentist,” said Jolly M. Caplash, a dentist at Rochester Oral Surgery in Rochester and chairman of dentistry at Rochester Regional Health. “They may be seeing them sooner. Once they go through that initial exam, maintain it every six months. They’re going through their pediatric dentist to see if their tooth eruption follows the right pattern.”
Parents should begin wiping teeth off with a washcloth or cleaning them with a soft brush and flossing between them at home at least twice per day. This keeps plaque off the teeth. Plaque causes tooth decay. Although baby teeth eventually fall out, they serve as placeholders for adult teeth. Losing them early can mean a greater chance of misalignment.
In addition to keeping the teeth clean, parents need to stick with only water in bottles and sippy cups between meals.
Constantly drinking milk, juice or other liquids “puts them at risk for decay,” Caplash said.
Especially detrimental is sending kids to bed with a bottle of milk or juice. Since babies do not swallow all the liquid, there may be the formation of some pools in their mouths, which might feed the bacteria that will damage their tooth enamel and cause cavities.
By the time children can write their own name, they should be able to brush their teeth, but parents should monitor them to ensure good hygiene and maintain regular check-ups to keep cavities away.
“Fluoride from drinking water and other sources like toothpaste and mouth rinse can help prevent tooth decay and make the child’s teeth stronger,” said Alexis Ghanem, clinical associate professor and director of the Advanced Education of General Dentistry-GME program at Eastman Institute for Oral Health. “Fluoride is a natural mineral that can slow or stop cavities.”
Preteen to Middle Age
By the preteen years, the baby teeth have left and parents should continue encouraging good hygiene and keep an eye on their children’s consumption of sugary treats and beverages. These contribute to cavities. Acidic beverages such as citrus fruit juice and soda particularly damage tooth enamel.
For the teen and young adult years, periodontal problems become the biggest threat, mainly caused by smoking, poor oral hygiene habits and diabetes. It is easy for teens to become lax about brushing when they leave home and go to college. They may not keep up with their dental cleaning visits, either.
When a person reaches middle age, many health issues that they have ignored become more apparent. Many studies have found an association between periodontitis and many other diseases and conditions. Ghanem listed respiratory disease, chronic kidney disease, obesity, diabetes and cancer.
“In our clinic, we often see patients having periodontal diseases along with some kind of systemic diseases associated to them,” he said. “Patients with diabetes should be told that they are at increased risk for periodontitis. They should also be told that if they suffer from periodontal disease, their blood sugar may be more difficult to control, and they are at higher risk for other complications such as cardiovascular and kidney disease.”
By their 50s, many people begin to experience cracked teeth and need dental caps. Dentist Antonio Calascibetta, owner of Celestial Dental in Henrietta and known as Dr. C., said that stress-induced tooth grinding and the age-related wear on the teeth are primary causes of cracks.
“We have seen a lot more cracks since the pandemic began because of everyone’s stress,” Calascibetta said.
Anyone 65 or older is “pushing the limits of our teeth,” Calascibetta said. “We will see frequently that the elderly has gum and bone recession.”
Negligent home care and smoking contribute to this process, among other reasons. The problem with receded gums is that the root surface has thinner enamel and is more prone to cavities for this reason. The more teeth lost, the more the jawbone breaks down.
Many older adults take medications that can cause dry mouth.
“Any patient with dry mouth is more prone to having dental issues without the saliva flushing away bacteria,” Calascibetta said.
Moisturizing mouth rinses and drinking plenty of water may help.
Arthritis can make brushing properly more challenging. To promote better oral care in these cases, Calascibetta recommends clients use an electric brush and prescription toothpaste with extra fluoride.