Even if your child has the right wardrobe, sports equipment and school supplies, there’s still one more important thing to consider before they go back to school: their oral health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children in the U.S. suffer more from tooth decay than from any chronic infectious disease. Left untreated, tooth decay can lead to problems with speaking, eating, playing and learning. To protect your child’s smile, check off these seven back-to-school items before the start of the school year.
1. Schedule a Back-to-School Dental Exam
According to the American Dental Association, dental examinations are just as important for children as immunizations and booster shots. Seeing a dentist regularly is crucial for diagnosing, treating, and preventing dental problems. If your child’s dentist finds an issue, he or she will recommend treatments to alleviate your child’s discomfort and prevent future decay. This will save your child from unnecessary pain and missed school time down the line.
2. Consult With an Orthodontist
The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that all children have an orthodontic evaluation at age 7. This evaluation will allow your child’s orthodontist to identify subtle problems with jaw growth or emerging teeth and set up a personalized plan for their orthodontic care. Early signs of orthodontic problems include early or late loss of baby teeth, trouble chewing or biting, mouth breathing, and crowded or misplaced teeth. Ultimately, an orthodontic examination will determine if treatment is necessary and put your child on track toward a healthy, beautiful smile.
3. Practice Good Oral Hygiene
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tooth decay is one of the most common chronic conditions of childhood in this country. Nonetheless, tooth decay often goes unnoticed by parents until it develops into more painful problems. This school year, take the time to go over proper brushing technique with your child, especially if summer disrupted his or her morning routine. To ward off cavities and gum disease, your child should floss once a day and brush with fluoride toothpaste twice a day. They should also follow proper brushing technique to effectively clean their teeth and gums without damaging them.
4. Replace Your Child’s Toothbrush
Frayed toothbrush bristles are more abrasive and less effective in removing plaque around your child’s gum line. If you are out shopping for school supplies, stop by the dental care aisle and stock up on toothbrushes. Ideally, you should swap out your child’s toothbrush every three months or immediately after your child recovers from an illness.
5. Pack Healthy, Travel-Friendly Snacks
When your child goes back to school, commit to packing their lunch box with portable, healthy snacks and lunch items. Snack items that are better for dental health include cheese, milk, grains, yogurt, fruit and raw vegetables. You may also want to consider swapping soda or high-sugar fruit drinks for water or no-sugar beverages. If your child eats at the cafeteria, make sure to go over healthy food choices before their first day at school.
6. Protect Against Injuries
Injuries to teeth are common in contact sports such as soccer, basketball, football, and hockey. If your child participates in any organized sport, ensure that he or she is equipped with a properly fitted mouthguard to protect against dental injuries. If you aren’t sure what type of mouthguard to buy, talk to the coach and your dentist to get recommendations for their specific sport or athletic event.
7. Continue to Educate Your Child
To educate your child on proper oral hygiene, find a fun, online video about toothbrushing technique or set five minutes aside each day to do daily oral care together. By setting a positive example, your child will pick up good dental habits and master the ins and outs of flossing and brushing.
Since oral health for children is as important as general body health, parents should take additional measures to keep their child’s smile healthy before they go back to school. Being prepared for a healthy oral hygiene routine is the best way to kick things off strong, so your child can head into school with a bright, healthy smile! If you have any questions about your child’s oral hygiene routine, schedule an appointment with your dentist. He or she can educate you more about oral care and recommend the best course of action for your child.