When it comes to childhood dental care, many parents assume that a one-size-fits-all regimen is sufficient enough to maintain overall good hygiene. This means that parents simply take their child in for cleanings twice a year in addition to brushing twice daily. However, what these parents fail to realize is that childhood dental care is cyclical, and the back-to-school season is one of the best times to prioritize dental care in the whole year.
“Regular dental visits are important year-round, but a back-to-school checkup is key in fighting the most common chronic disease found in school-age children: cavities,” writes Mouth Healthy, a website from the American Dental Association.
And it’s true — in fact, more than 40% of children have dental cavities by the time they reach kindergarten. (Yikes – my son had 2 cavities when he started kindergarten. Both he and I were not happy! -Lisa)
So how can parents prioritize both professional and at-home dental care for their children during the back-to-school season? Should you really schedule a dreaded dentist appointment amidst late night study sessions, sports practices, and hangouts with new friends? Here are just a few simple ways to say “Yes!” to back-to-school dental hygiene!
Look At Their Lunch
Children often drink more sugary snacks and drinks during their school hours than after school or during the summer months. Why? Their parents aren’t watching over their shoulders, and many schools offer cheap but sugar-laden snacks in vending machines that are easy to access as well. One way to remedy this is to pack your child a healthy lunch. Don’t forego a sweet snack completely, but be mindful of what’s in it. Natural fruit snacks, for example, are a great alternative over gummy and hard candies, and your child is bound to enjoy them just as much. Of course, packing your child’s lunch doesn’t guarantee that they’ll stay away from the tempting treats of the cafeteria, but it’s a whole lot healthier than school-bought lunches and processed snacks.
Ask Plenty Of Questions
According to an AACD survey, virtually all adults (99.7%) surveyed believe a healthy smile is socially important, but it’s medically important as well. That’s why it’s important to ask your child’s dentist a number of relevant questions during their back-to-school dental visit. In addition to inquiring about your child’s overall dental health, you should request a cleaning and ask if an x-ray is necessary. If your child plays sports, this is the perfect opportunity to ask for a quick check of their mouthguard as well.
“If your child is having a growth spurt, losing teeth and getting new ones, the mouthguard might need to be redone,” says ADA pediatric dentist Dr. Mary Hayes. This is probably the most important question for parents of child athletes to ask their pediatric dentist: emergency room visits now number approximately 110 million annually, and the last thing any child needs during the start of the school year is to have to make a visit of their own due to a sports-related mouth injury.
Keep Age In Mind
Finally, the best way to prioritize back-to-school dental care is to develop and maintain a vigilant yet age-friendly routine for your child. Children ages six and under can start brushing their teeth by themselves, but they don’t have the motor skills to do a thorough job, so you may have to step in as needed. Children ages seven to 12 know what they should be doing, but it’s more about getting them to do it regularly, so you may have to take over occasionally as well. Children ages 12-18 are undergoing a critical period in their dental development as well and should be both brushing and flossing twice a day, every day.
Ultimately, these are just a few simple steps you can take to prioritize dental care during the back-to-school season. With these tips in mind, your child will have a happy and healthy school year! (And you’ll probably have fewer dental bills, too!)