Life Stages


Pinehurst NC Dentists Life Stages of Dental CareLife expectancy has increased significantly in the last century, with a nonsmoking individual of normal weight averaging 85 years.  People are aging well and keeping their teeth longer.  Maintenance of good oral health is important for quality of life in terms of proper digestion, enjoying food, and appearance.  Some elderly patients are challenged with dexterity issues.  Our hygienists will recommend oral hygiene aids to remove plaque and keep the teeth and gums healthy.  Changes in medication and other changes in your health may affect saliva flow.  Decreased salivary flow can lead to increases in tooth decay.  Fluoride therapy and saliva substitutes can help.  Many elderly patients have partial or full dentures.  It is very important to see the dentist regularly to evaluate these prostheses.  Poor fitting dentures can cause bone loss and soft tissue loss.  Chewing function decreases if the dentures are poor fitting and this leads to inadequate food digestion.


An important component of your regular dental checkup with us is screening for oral cancer, gum disease, tooth wear and breakdown.  In some cases, grinding and clenching of the teeth, known as bruxism, leads to accelerated wear of the teeth. (inset picture of bruxism here)  Custom made appliances may be recommended to reduce abnormal wear and muscle and joint discomfort.  We will prescribe the appropriate appliance for you.  You may learn more about appliance therapy at  X-rays are a critical component to catching things early that are not visible in the mouth.  X-rays show us cavities inside the teeth, bone problems under the gums, cysts and tumors in the jaws.  We can often see carotid artery calcifications in the neck as well.  Our practice takes bitewing x-rays usually every 12 months.  We take the extra-oral panoramic x-ray every 3-5 years.  Minimizing exposure to radiation from x-rays is important to us.  Each small film is equivalent to approximately 3 hours of outside activity. 

Adolescents: Ages 7 to 18

As children grow, many developmental changes affect oral hygiene.  Changes in hormone levels may increase plaque levels and cause gingivitis.  If a rapid increase in cavities occurs, fluoride treatment with prescription toothpastes or fluoride trays may be prescribed.  Establishing habits for a lifetime is very important as the transition is completed from baby teeth to adult teeth.  We recommend that parents of young children supervise and brush after their child has brushed.  Additionally, eruption patterns of teeth and spacing need to be evaluated.  In some cases, referral to an orthodontist may be recommended.  Orthodontic treatment increases plaque levels and more effort will be necessary with homecare.

Toddlers:  Ages 2 to 6

By age two, toddlers need to be seen by a dentist.  Parents may bring their child to the parent’s check up.  This helps familiarize the child with the dentist.  If possible, the hygienist may clean the child’s teeth and the dentist can do the oral examination.  Depending on development we may place topical fluoride, review brushing and flossing techniques, take x-rays, and discuss dietary considerations to prevent tooth decay.  One important consideration is cessation of thumbsucking which affects dental and skeletal development.  The best method to reduce cavities in toddlers is by limiting the frequency of sugar intake.  The more often children “sip” sugar drinks, sports drinks, and juices, the greater their risk of tooth decay.  After drinking or eating foods, it is important to brush the teeth to remove the sugar and acids which cause tooth decay.  Around age 6, the first permanent molars erupt.  If the new permanent molars are well-formed and appear cavity-free, sealants are placed in the pits and fissures to help prevent tooth decay.  Newly erupted teeth with deep grooves are difficult to brush.  These deep grooves are smaller than the bristles of the toothbrush.  This anatomy allows bacteria and sugar to accumulate on the tooth and allows tooth decay to start quickly.  If the newly erupted tooth appears discolored or the enamel appears damaged, the grooves of the tooth are cleaned to remove affected tooth structure.  If enamel still remains on the tooth surface, a sealant is placed.  If the stain and decay extends into the tooth, a filling may be placed.  Sealants are recommended for placement on all permanent molars and premolars.  Sealants help prevent decay in the deep grooves, but good oral hygiene is still important because you can still get a cavity in a sealed tooth.

Infants: Birth to Age Two

Preventive dentistry begins even before teeth erupt.  Massaging the gum tissues with infant brushes helps babies become familiar with parents cleaning the teeth and gum tissues.  Plaque removal with finger brushes or infant toothbrushes and non-fluoridated toothpaste is recommended for daily oral hygiene.  If you have any questions about fluoride for your child, please contact our office for a consultation.  One of the most common areas for tooth decay for infants occurs with the front teeth.  Once teeth erupt, babies should not drink anything other than water at night in bottles or cups.  If babies drink anything other than water, the front teeth are continuously exposed to sugar.  This frequent sugar exposure leads to “baby bottle” decay.


Preventive Dentistry

Cosmetic Dentistry

Implant Dentistry

Restorative Dentistry