Family Dentistry | Sunshine Coast Dentists
To offer great quality dentistry for the whole family we need to understand the different risk factors that affect people of different ages. Obviously, the dental needs of a 7 year old differ from that of a 70 year old.
It is important for young children to establish healthy eating habits and good brushing and flossing habits to set them up for a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums. Parents should clean their child’s teeth with a soft toothbrush up until the age of around 7 or 8 but it is important to monitor their cleaning after this age. It is ideal for children to brush twice a day with a fluoride containing toothpaste and to floss at least once a day. A healthy diet for your teeth means limiting high sugar containing foods, such as lollies, cordials (really anything that is sweet), as well limiting acidic foods such as softdrinks. Ideally a child should attend the dentist by 1 year or age or within 6 months of the first tooth erupting into the mouth.
A number of lifestyle issues can start to impact teenagers’ teeth including smoking, drinking alcohol, sports drinks, lip and tongue piercings, and stress. Smoking increases the chances of getting gum disease and the severity of gum disease and most people who smoke in their adult years start the habit when they are teenagers. Drinking alcohol often starts during teenage years. Alcohol dehydrates people which reduces salivary flow which is the body’s natural defense against tooth decay. Often alcohol is mixed with softdrinks which are acidic and which contain large amounts of sugar – both which increase the likelihood of tooth decay. Many teenagers play sports and often they rehydrate with sports drinks such as Powerade. While these drinks may be good at rehydrating people but they contain sugar and are acidic which promote tooth decay. Teenagers may get tongue or lip piercings, which are usually metal. This hard metal can crack or wear teeth or traumatize the gums causing irreversible damage. The stress of high school can cause teenagers to start grinding their teeth. This can cause jaw muscle pain and wear of teeth and teeth sensitivity. Finally, the teenage years are the most common time that people have orthodontics completed. While this produces a beautiful smile it is important to maintain ideal oral hygiene while braces are in place as it is harder to clean teeth that have braces on them.
Younger Adults (18-30)
For younger adults, many of the same risk factors that affect teenagers are also relevant. However, often people in this age group are starting to drink and party less and are starting to look after their health and starting to think about having children of their own. Some additional risk factors for this age group are wisdom teeth and pregnancy. Wisdom teeth usually erupt into the mouth around ages 18-21. Many people do not have enough room for them to erupt through into the correct position and this often results in pain, swelling and infection. For this reason removal of wisdom teeth is a very common practice for people in this age group. Pregnancy causes a range of problems for the teeth and gums. Pregnancy hormones result in more bleeding and inflammation of the gums so pregnant ladies can get much more rapid progression of gum disease during this time. Additionally, morning sickness and pregnancy cravings create an ideal environment for the bacteria that cause tooth decay to flourish often resulting in a large increase in tooth decay during this period.
The major risk factors for adults include gum disease, decay, failure of existing dental restorations, and loss of teeth. Gum disease is caused by bacteria and is a cumulative disease over time. So unfortunately as we age our risk for gum disease increases. While we usually look after ourselves better at this stage of our life in terms of eating a healthy diet and brushing and flossing consistently, we are still at risk of tooth decay. The area where existing fillings bond to your teeth is at higher risk of tooth decay. Also medications (such as for blood pressure, cholesterol, depression and many others) cause a reduction in salivary flow which is your natural defense against tooth decay. By this stage of most people’s lives they have received numerous dental restorations. Unfortunately, nothing lasts for ever and that includes dental restorations. So during this phase of life many people need to have old fillings and crowns replaced to keep teeth healthy and strong. Finally, many people in this age group have lost teeth. This is a problem as when teeth are lost it results in more force on the remaining teeth making them more likely to fracture and break as well as the remaining teeth are more likely to drift and move into the space making it more likely to get decay and problems with the remaining teeth.
Older Adults (65+)
For older adults, most of the same issues apply as for Adults (see above). Some additional problems that affect this age group are dentures and missing teeth as well as old amalgam fillings. When teeth are lost they were traditionally replaced with dentures. Unfortunately, dentures contribute to greater amounts of decay and gum disease around the remaining teeth. Dentures are also not as comfortable as natural teeth. They have significantly less biting forces than natural teeth and move around, rub and can make eating and speaking difficult. Luckily dental implants are a newer alternative to dentures that can restore function and appearance close to the levels of natural teeth. Many people in this age group received a mouthful of old amalgam fillings before they left school. The amalgam fillings often last very well, but do have some problems. The amalgam fillings contribute to cracking of teeth, release mercury and don’t look as nice as white fillings.