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Dental Health Through the Decades

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As we get older, our bodies age with us. Dental health is no exception and your needs change as you age. Learn what to look out for throughout the decades of your life.

Aging is an unavoidable process of life. As we grow older, our body changes and our health needs are no exceptions. Someone who is 15 years old may have very different reasons for making a dentist’s appointment than someone who is 65 years old. So what does dental health look like throughout the decades of life, and what changes should you be looking out for as you start the next chapter?

Childhood (0-10)
Childhood is one of the most exciting times for your teeth. From the time you’re born to the time you’re 10, most people will have 2 sets of teeth come in. Deciduous teeth, commonly known as “baby teeth”, are the first set of teeth that appear at 6 months old and begin falling out around 6 years old. They are replaced by permanent “adult teeth”. The process of losing one’s teeth is the most common dental concern for children of this age range.

Tooth decay is also another dental concern for children, particularly older children ages 6-19. The term tooth decay may scare you, but it simply refers to cavities (and who hasn’t had one of those before). Cavities are completely preventable, but they’re still prevalent in children; they can be avoided by having good dental habits. You should teach kids in this age range how to brush their teeth and floss properly in order for them to take better care of their “adult teeth” once they grow in.

Since there is constant activity regarding teeth, gums, and the mouth, kids don’t have too many concerns but it’s important to begin instilling good dental habits from this young age range.

Teens (10-20)
The most common problem for teens is arguably crooked or ill-fitting teeth. When permanent teeth grow in place of primary teeth, they can sometimes grow out of the gums in awkward angles. That’s where braces come in handy. Braces are corrective devices that help realign your teeth. On average, about 4 million people in the United States wear braces in any given year. That’s roughly the population of Los Angeles! 75% of those people are teens.

Cavities, or tooth decay, is also a concern for this age group. According to data, 58% of teens had tooth caries in their permanent teeth and required treatment for them. A great preventive product for cavities is fluoride. Brushing your teeth with fluoride toothpaste, fluoride tabs, or fluoride rinse/mouthwash.

Young Adulthood (20-30)
Wisdom teeth (scientifically referred to as third molars) are one of the biggest issues for people in young adulthood. Wisdom teeth typically grow in around the ages 18 to 25 and the sooner you get them removed, the better. Wisdom teeth can cause infection, tooth decay, and even tumors when they’re impacted. However, 35% of the population is born without wisdom teeth. They’re the lucky ones because 85% of people with wisdom teeth have to get them removed for their own health and safety.

While less common, gingivitis and gum disease could come on early around this age range. Gingivitis is a form of gum disease that is treatable and reversible when caught early.

Adulthood (30-40)
Gum disease is one of the most dangerous dental health concerns and it commonly occurs in the ages of adulthood. Gum disease (scientifically known as periodontal disease) affects nearly 50% of people aged 30 years or older, and 70% of people over the age of 65. It is caused by a bacterial infection. Bacteria build-up forms plaque, and plaque forms tartar, which then leads to periodontal disease. While there is treatment for periodontal disease, it’s best to practice good dental health habits like flossing to avoid these concerns.

However, as mentioned before, the first stage of gum disease (gingivitis) is actually reversible. If gingivitis is not caught and treated, it will progress into periodontal disease and became a painful endeavor for patients. This shows that as you age, it’s just as important (if not more important) to stay updated with your yearly check-ups at your dentist.

Middle Aged (40-65)
Along with periodontal disease, middle-aged people typically begin to experience a lot of tooth sensitivity from the ages of 40-65. Tooth sensitivity can be caused by a variety of factors, so it’s best to talk to your doctor and find out what the root of the problem is before attempting to fix it. There are a lot of remedies, though, including toothpaste especially for sensitive teeth or topical treatment.

Middle-aged adults also experience tooth loss, though not as extreme as in older adults. Commonly adults lose a tooth due to infection, decay, or a variety of reasons. It’s important to get these teeth filled in with implants or bridges, though, as missing teeth can cause the remaining teeth to shift or can cause problems when speaking or eating.

Elderly (65+)
The most common problem for dental health in elderly people is dentures. Dentures are, in a way, a counterpart to braces for teens. A lot of people need them and there is nothing wrong with that. In fact, it was found that in 2019, 41 million Americans wore dentures. Some people even need dentures starting at age 40, but dentures become a universal necessity after the age of 65.

It’s important for people with dentures to take care of their mouth just as vigorously. Although your teeth may not be real, your gums and your mouth still need maintenance and care. Your mouth is lined with a mucous membrane known as the oral mucosa and as you age, this membrane becomes thinner and smoother, which makes it less effective at warding off bacteria and increases your likelihood of infection. Be sure to practice good, healthy dental habits like brushing your teeth and gums twice a day and visiting your dentist regularly. Nutrition also plays a large part in dental health so be sure to watch what you’re eating and regularly clean your dentures to prevent bacterial infections.

These dental health concerns apply to all ages, believe it or not. Just like everyone has a different fingerprint, everybody’s mouth is different. You may never experience tooth decay (cavities) or you may not have wisdom teeth, just as you may experience gingivitis and tooth sensitivity earlier than the expected age ranges. The best thing you can do to prevent dental health problems is to practice healthy habits and visit your dentist regularly for your annual check-up.

You never quite outgrow dental health. Things may change as you age, but a lot of it stays the same. Know the changes you should expect and look out for as you grow through your own decades of life.

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