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Dental care changes as you age
February 12, 2015 Jerry Purvis   

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Dr. Dan Peterson - Family Gentle Dental Care

Your dental health needs change as you get older, so you should be aware of what those changes are so your smile remains bright for a lifetime.

Dr. Dan Peterson, dentist with Family Gentle Dental Care in Gering, said from birth to about age 12, the main concern is primary teeth, sometimes called baby teeth.

“These teeth are essential not only for chewing food, but also for saving space where the permanent teeth will come in,” Peterson said. “We prefer to fix cavities on baby teeth now because it keeps teeth from getting infected.”

He said the different age groups overlap somewhat. From age 6 to about 18 is when all the permanent teeth appear. This group is sometimes called the cavity prone age.
When teeth first come in, the enamel is the softest it will be. It hardens with long-term exposure to saliva.

“Sealants are important at this age,” Peterson said. “Fluoride is also important, both in the water and in brushing. I also recommend this age group have a fluoride treatment at their dentist every six months. We concentrate on cavity prevention. In fact, I’d recommend fluoride treatments for people of all ages.”

Gering’s water is fluoridated at one part per million, an optimum level for dental health. Scottsbluff does not fluoridate its water. And some areas of the Panhandle have naturally occurring fluoride in the water.

People age 16 to 20 will soon be dealing with wisdom teeth. In some people, there’s sufficient room in the back of the mouth for a third molar to grow in naturally. But if the molar is impacted or lying sideways, it requires an oral surgeon to remove it.

Peterson said that people in the late teenage years and up to the early 30s have a different problem: high consumption of soft drinks overly sweetened with high fructose corn syrup. The average bottle of soda may contain the equivalent of up to 13 teaspoons of sugar.
“I had one patient who was drinking about six 20-ounce bottles of soda a day,” Peterson said. “His mouth was wall-to-wall cavities.”

As a person ages into adulthood, different issues arise. While cavities are still possible, gum diseases like gingivitis and periodontal disease can become more common. Chronic periodontal disease may lead to bone loss and increased risk for oral cancer – as well as other diseases.

As people age, partials, crowns and dentures come more into the picture. With new technology, dental professionals can manufacture them much easier than in the past.

Peterson, who sees patients from age 2 to almost 100, said he sees variety throughout the day. But no matter the age of the person, basic dental health habits always apply. Everyone should have a dental checkup every six months. Flossing every day and brushing twice daily with fluoride toothpaste should be a daily habit for a healthy smile.
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