Profiles in Dentistry

At every stage of life, good oral health habits are vital to overall health


healthy smile makes an important first impression. Maintaining that smile and its health becomes increasingly important throughout life. Beyond routine brushing, flossing and regular dental checkups, local dental professionals suggest there are other ways to maintain a healthy smile at every stage.

When babies begin teething at three to nine months, wipe the gums with a clean, moist cloth and graduate to a child’s toothbrush when teeth appear. “Your child should visit the dentist by their first birthday,” says Tucson pediatric dentist Jeffery DuBois. Baby bottle tooth decay comes from putting a baby to bed with a milk bottle or using the bottle as a pacifier. Thumb sucking can alter tooth alignment as teeth grow in.

Children begin to lose baby teeth by age 6 or 7. If drinking water is fluoride deficient, fluoride should be added in toothpaste, topically or in dietary supplements to prevent and reduce cavities. Alternatively, topical sealant guards against cavities. Crowded or crooked teeth and jaw misalignment becomes apparent between ages 6 and 12. Braces are a common orthodontic treatment to straighten teeth and correct bite, making it easier to eat, speak and keep gums clean.

Teen diets can put them at risk of tooth decay and other oral health issues. Encourage them to carry and use a travel toothbrush, chew sugar-free gum, snack on healthy food and drink lots of water. Mouth guards should be used to prevent sports injury. Wisdom teeth appear during the late teens and often are removed to prevent crowding, pain or infection.

“Dentistry is becoming more noted for identifying risk factors that can influence a person’s health in many ways”, says Dr. Elahe Wissinger. “Healthier mouths come with improved resistance to other systemic problems, such as cardiovascular disease.”

Neglecting teeth and gums can lead to decay, infection, tooth loss and deterioration of tissue and bone. Daily brushing, flossing and regular dental checkups are important. Teeth grinding or bruxism can occur during sleep, damaging teeth and the jaw. Deep cavities may require a root canal, in which the tooth’s core is removed, cleaned and sealed to prevent further decay. Early stages of oral cancer often are undetected because there’s no pain. Watch for open sores, red or white patches, or changes in the cheek lining or tongue that persist more than two weeks.

“It’s amazing how much force and stress we apply to our teeth on a daily basis,” says Dr. Frank Son. “They act like mini grinders so sometimes, even with the best home care, teeth can break/fracture or develop a small cavity. Don’t be discouraged! From my experiences and observations in clinical practice, barring any serious or complicated medical/physical issues, almost all dental issues can be avoided.”

Good oral health is essential to general health and wellbeing, and of course a healthy smile.

Dr. Frank Son’s three keys to oral health:

1. Practicing great home care. Diligent flossing and brushing twice a day is a must. Avoid over-aggressive brushing and using a hard toothbrush as it can damage the enamel (outer protective tooth layer) over time.

2. Limiting the frequency of eating sweets and acidic food. When you do, try to consume it quickly. Also, don’t brush your teeth immediately after eating something sweet or acidic; wait at least 20 minutes for the saliva to neutralize the oral cavity.

3. Getting routine check-ups and cleanings at least twice a year. Early detection is the key to avoid/minimize the need for any major dental work and ensure the overall health of the mouth.