This article has been updated from a post originally published on 6/7/18.
No matter how old we are, there is one thing we all have in common…well, specifically, 32 things: our teeth.
Everyone wants a healthy smile. But just like any other part of your body, how you go about caring for your teeth will change over time. So what do you need to keep an eye out for as you age?
Let this guide be your oral health roadmap as you navigate your 20s, 30s and 40s.
In your 20s
Freedom from parental control might feel liberating at first, but 20-year-olds new to adult life will soon find out that maintaining a clean bill of dental health may be more financially difficult on their own.
For one, many young adults in this age group do not have dental coverage for a variety of reasons:
- Children can no longer be claimed as dependents on their parent’s insurance policies at age 26. Not surprisingly, 26-27 year-olds made up the highest percentage of uninsured Americans in the 2020 census.
- As many as 74 million Americans do not have dental coverage, with an estimated 6 million having lost it during the pandemic. That is a lot of families’ oral health affected by a lack of traditional dental insurance.
- Many employers do not offer dental benefits, have cut them as a cost-saving measure or are too expensive for employees to afford.
As a 20-something, it may be easy to think, I am young and healthy. Dental care is something I can worry about when I am older. But here’s the truth: you should never push off preventative care. As Americans, we tend to wait until something is wrong before we see a health professional. But two cleanings a year with a dentist can address many oral health concerns before they even happen.
So don’t wait until your next decade to start thinking about your oral health. If you are 26 and just came off your parent’s insurance, we’ve got your back. Or if your job doesn’t offer dental insurance, here are some affordable options to explore.
In your 30s
If our 20s are all about adjusting to adult living, our 30s introduce us to different ways our lives can evolve and expand.
Whether you settle in with a partner or choose to have or adopt children, the number of people in your household may increase in your 30s. While these events can happen at any time in your adult life, trends show Americans making these decisions more and more for the first time during this decade. That means you may need to seek dental coverage for more than just yourself. If dental insurance isn’t an option, here are three ways to save on dental care.
As for you personally, any dental care you may have pushed off in your 20s may begin to compound in your 30s. And you might be nervous to “face the music” if you haven’t been to the dentist in a while. If you have anxiety about seeing the dentist, don’t push it off: use these tips to help you overcome your concerns.
In your 40s
You’re in your 40s — you may think you’ve seen it all, right? Well, not exactly.
All those years of wisdom may have also brought some stress into your life. And guess what? In addition to your mental health, stress can also have a significant role in your oral health, including tooth grinding, canker sores and temporomandibular joints (TMJ). But we don’t have to live with our stress: try some of these stress reduction techniques to ease some of the oral health concerns it can cause.
There is also another dental matter you’ll want to monitor in this decade: gum disease. Whether due to bad dental habits in their younger years, poor circulation, hormones or existing health conditions that exacerbate periodontal issues (such as diabetes), 40-year-olds will need to be more vigilant with their oral health routine and dental visits to keep the effects of gum disease at bay.
Oral health at any age
You may have noticed a theme throughout this roadmap: the importance of daily oral hygiene and preventative care. And while cost can be an obstacle for many Americans seeking dental care, it doesn’t have to be a barrier. Know your options and take steps now to keep your mouth healthy, no matter your age.
The bottom line: Regardless of your age or current dental health, preventative care should never be put off. Stay on top of your dental hygiene and you will have a healthy smile for years to come.