On July 3rd, 1806, two years into their journey to chart the unchartered West of America, pioneer explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark reached a challenge of epic proportion – the Rocky Mountains. What next, they wondered? Without a map, they were forced to do what explorers do – explore, and hope for the best. So, that got us thinking. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a handy map you could use to chart your own dental health? With that in mind, and in honor of our “Dog Days of Summer” explorers, here are a few mile markers you can use to stay on top of your health today, next year, and for years to come!
18-25 years oldThis is a time where work, college, and sometimes marriage start to get in the way of our parental-guided dental care regimens. It’s also a time when even as college students, we tend to find money for the things we “want” instead of the things we “need.” Given that we’re generally healthy at this time in our lives, there isn’t too much we have to worry about when we visit the dentist. Yet here are a few conversations you might want to have with the doctor when you come in for your periodic cleaning:
- Preventative dentistry: Are your wisdom teeth fully grown or are they just starting to make their way out? Have your doctor provide a prognosis on how they will affect things. Depending on your individual situation, you may benefit from getting them removed to avoid future orthodontic problems.
- Cosmetic dentistry: Are there imperfections in your smile that you always wanted to correct as a teen? Now that your permanent are fully grown and stable, you may want to talk to your doctor about cosmetic options like veneers, bonding and whitening procedures.
- Injury Prevention: The ADA estimates 200,000 oral injuries a year can be prevented with mouthguards alone. If you’re active in any sort of sport (even the weekend variety), you owe it to yourself to consider a mouthguard.
26-39 years oldThese are the years where decades of wear-and-tear start to catch up with you. They’re also bridge years for having kids, and you’ll feel as though life is pulling you in a million directions. Ignoring the dentist during this timeframe is risky. Here’s how you can stay ahead of the game:
- Cosmetic dentistry: Consult with your dentist about cosmetic services like teeth whitening, veneers, etc. And, don’t let the “costmetic” banner scare you off. Something as simple as bonding can help seal-in worn away enamel and spaces between teeth – both which can lead to erosion and cavities. Best of all, these procedures can be done in a snap with the technology available in your dentist’s office.
- Restorative dentistry: If you have an old crown, root canal or filling, you might need to have it tuned-up or replaced. Many practices offer same day restorations that will have you off and running in no time.
- Start thinking about maintenance: Sonic toothbrushes, oral irrigators, disclosing tablets, Xylitol gum are all items that can keep your teeth healthy year after year. Consider investing in a few of them and use them regularly as you move into your forties.
40-65 years oldWith maintenance and repair top of mind, you’ll want to start to educate yourself on the sort of procedures that will help you keep your healthy teeth, and strengthen or replace those that are weak. Consider:
- A wider array of restorative dentistry subjects: implants, crowns, bridges, dental implants, mini-implants and even dentures. Ask your dentist for advice as to what’s best for you. Maybe you have perfect teeth and need none of these! Hooray!
- Preventative Dentistry: Consider an oral cancer screening with one of the advanced technologies on the market. These two-minute exams just might literally save your life. Here are some things to know about protecting yourself from this form of cancer that’s on the rise.
65+ years oldAt this age, you’ll need to consider a multi-disciplined approach to your dental care. Aside from aging teeth, you may also have other health concerns that disrupt your typically healthy mouth. Some things to consider are:
- More vigilant in-office routines: You may need to increase the frequency of your cleaning visits – ask your doctor for their best advice.
- Systemic Health Education: There is a link between oral health and other health factors, so be sure to keep your dentist in the loop with regard to all medications you’re taking, and particularly keep them informed as to any heart disease, diabetes, or other conditions you may have. Most importantly, because your mouth is the “window” to the rest of your body, your dentist can sometimes discover these conditions in their early stages because of the effects they have on the mouth. So, please don’t neglect your visits at this age!