Key Takeaways

  • Dental care basics are the same for everyone. But kids and teens have different dental care needs compared to adults and seniors.
  • Infants can get cavities like older children and adults. Following all feedings, you should clean your baby’s mouth and teeth.
  • Baby teeth not only allow a child to eat and speak, they hold the space for adult teeth that will develop later. Take care of them!
  • Regular visits to your dentist, daily brushing and flossing, and a healthy diet should help your teeth last a lifetime

Babies

Babies usually don’t have teeth coming in until six to nine months of age. These milk teeth, or first teeth, help your child eat and speak. They also help their adult teeth come in straight. They can also get cavities like the rest of us. Babies’ mouths and teeth should be cleaned after all feedings. Here’s how:

  • If the teeth are too small for an infant toothbrush, use a clean, damp facecloth to wipe their teeth and gums.
  • Do not use toothpaste until your child has teeth.
  • If your baby falls asleep while feeding, brush their teeth before feeding.

Going to bed with fluids other than water in their bottle can cause a lot of damage to your baby’s teeth. The sugar will remain on the child’s teeth throughout the night. This can damage the enamel and cause tooth decay. If your baby sleeps with a bottle, fill it with water.

Baby’s First Visit – Make it Fun!

A baby’s first visit to the dentist should happen by their first birthday, or when the first teeth appear. To prepare for the first visit:

  • Try playing “dentist.” Count your child’s teeth, then switch roles and let him or her count yours. Make the exercise fun and explain that this is what the dentist will do.
  • Treat the appointment as routine.
  • Tell your dentist about any special needs or medical problems, such as allergies or bleeding disorders.
  • Ask your dentist if your child can bring their favourite toy along.

First visit, first tooth

The Canadian Dental Association recommends a first visit to the dentists within 6 months of the eruption of the first tooth or by one year of age.

Learn more

Dealing with Teething

It can be hard to see your baby frustrated and in pain as their first teeth come in. Here are a few tips to safely help your baby with teething:

  • Massage their gums with your clean finger or a clean, chilled wet cloth. You can also give them a plastic teething ring.
  • Avoid giving them hard foods like raw carrots that could cause choking.
  • Avoid giving them teething biscuits. Sugar will remain on the new teeth, leading to decay.
  • Over-the-counter gels for teething should not be used, unless advised by a doctor.
  • Your dentist, pharmacist, or doctor can suggest an over-the-counter medicine to ease the pain.
  • Getting new teeth does not make babies sick or give them a fever. If your child has a fever, check with your doctor.

Toddlers and Preschoolers

All twenty primary (baby) teeth come in by the time your child is two or three years old. This is the perfect time to get children into a good dental care routine. It can keep them on track for the rest of their lives.

  • For children under the age of three, talk to your dentist about the best way to brush your child’s teeth. Ask them if toothpaste is appropriate to use.
  • By the age of three, you should help your child brush their teeth twice a day with proper technique. Be sure to only use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste. Make sure your child spits out the toothpaste after brushing.
  • A vitamin-rich, balanced diet is important for their growth. Avoid sugary foods or drinks – that includes juice.
  • After eating sugary or sticky foods like raisins, rinse their mouth with water. You can also give them juicy fruits or vegetables to clean their teeth.
  • Don’t let your child sip on sugary liquids, including milk and juice from sippy cups. Offer these drinks only at mealtimes.
  • As soon as your child’s teeth start touching, it’s time to start flossing!
  • Change your child’s toothbrush every one to three months or after an illness. Never share your toothbrush with your child or use your child’s toothbrush.
  • Let your child watch you brushing your teeth as often as possible. Children are wonderful imitators. There’s nothing like a parent’s example to teach them a healthy dental routine.

Children and Adolescents

Around the ages of six to eight years, the first teeth start to fall out and the permanent teeth erupt through the gums. By the age of 13, most of the permanent teeth, except for the wisdom teeth, should be in. These teeth should last a lifetime. Remember to:

  • Brush at least twice and floss once every day
  • Cut back on sugar to avoid cavities
  • Limit snacking – unless it’s celery or carrots!
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet
  • Wear a mouthguard to protect your teeth when playing sports
  • Reach for the water bottle – the sweetness and acidity in sports and energy drinks can lead to tooth decay and dental erosion

Permanent Teeth

At age six or seven, the first adult (or permanent) teeth come in. These “first molars” or “six-year molars” come in at the back of the mouth, behind the last baby teeth. They don’t replace any baby teeth.

Also at around age six, children start to lose their baby teeth. The roots slowly get weak, and the tooth falls out. It’s okay for children to wiggle their primary teeth if they are loose. It’s not okay to use force to pull out a tooth that’s not ready to come out. When a tooth comes out at the right time, there will be very little bleeding.

Permanent teeth often look more yellow than primary teeth. This is normal. But it could also be caused by medicine your child took, by an accident that hurt a primary tooth, or by too much fluoride. Ask your dentist about this when you go for a dental exam.

Teens

For teenagers, the basic rules apply but they’re also in the age range for braces, so it’s extra important to have good dental care habits. Teens face additional challenges that can impact their oral health.

Wisdom Teeth

These molars in the back of the mouth usually appear between the ages of 17 and 21, although they can begin causing problems as early as age 13. Your dentist can tell whether your wisdom teeth have enough space or if they should be removed.

Puberty

The increase in female hormones can raise the blood flow to the gums. This can change the way gum tissue reacts to bacteria (plaque) and inflammation. The gums can sometimes bleed during brushing and flossing.

Grills and Tooth Jewels

Grills are usually removable metalwork that fits over teeth. Tooth jewels are glass crystals or gold and are glued to teeth and can stay attached for as long as a year.

Both these cosmetic treatments can result in inflammation of the gums and other mouth irritation. Talk to your dentist first about the safest choices and proper care and cleaning.

Oral Piercings

These can produce infections, uncontrollable bleeding, nerve damage and can cause gums to recede. Metal jewelry can also chip or crack teeth. Talk to your dentist first about the safest choices and proper care and cleaning.

Smoking and Vaping

Smoking and vaping can have a serious impact on your oral health. They can:

  • Stain your teeth and gums.
  • Contribute to bad breath.
  • Increase your risk of developing oral cancer and gum disease.

There are also oral health risks related to smoking or vaping cannabis. If you smoke or vape, let your dentist know. They need to monitor your oral health and keep a close eye on any inflammation and changes in your mouth.

Eating Disorders

Vomiting associated with eating disorders causes tooth decay, gum disease, and the loss of tooth enamel. Your dentist can treat your teeth, but if you think you have an eating disorder, it is recommended that you speak with your physician about it.

Reduce the risk

Learn more about dangers to your dental health and how to avoid them.

Start here.