Here at Dentistry for Children in Central Florida, we have suddenly realized that Back-to-School days have arrived. Once again it’s time for school books, crayons, bright pencils, bus rides and homework.
Families must once again return to a more disciplined, structured way of life. Children must go back to days of school schedules, study routines, classes and getting up early. US News and World report agrees and adds a health concern. “You’ve shopped for classroom supplies, fall clothes, gym uniforms, lunchbox fodder and dorm bedding.”
Get a Healthy Start for Your Back to School Days
The magazine adds, “Now it’s time to help your children start – and continue – the new school year in good health. Whether it’s their first day in kindergarten or they’re off to college, experts give tips on eyesight, dental care, sound sleep, disease prevention, sports safety and back-to-school jitters (for parents and kids alike).”
In the midst of all this good advice, don’t let simple tips for good oral habits get lost.
Back to School Tips for Parents to Ensure Better Dental Check-Ups
The dental insurance giant, Delta Dental boils advice down to three basic tips for parents. Let us paraphrase them for you and take a quick look:
1. The Back-to-School Dental Exam
To be a proactive dental parent, don’t be afraid to ask us about sealants and fluoride treatments. At Dentistry for children, we love to use these treatments because they prevent decay. “In fact, having sealants on your permanent molars reduces the risk of cavities by 80%. It’s best to get sealants as soon as your child’s permanent molars come through their gums (usually at age 6, then again at age 12).”
And avoiding decay is critical because “A third of children miss school because of oral health problems, according to Delta Dental’s 2015 Children’s Oral Health Survey.”
2. Nab Some Healthy Dental Nutrition
They advise parents to “Swap out lunchbox no-no’s with healthy alternatives.
They add, “Instead of chips or crackers, try nuts. Salty snacks may seem healthy because they don’t contain sugar, but simple starches can be just as bad.”
We summarize, “Both sugars and starches become “sticky goo” that coats teeth and invites decay. They advise offering “crunchy snacks like celery sticks, baby carrots, and cubes of cheddar cheese.”
3. A Parent’s Primer to Make brushing and flossing fun:
A. Is for Stickers Actually Work: Create a Calendar for brushing rewards. “Let your kids place stickers on each day to represent brushing and flossing.”
B. Use the Power of Music: “Collect your kids’ favorite two-minute songs and make sure they brush the whole time.”
C. Toothy Shopping and Personalizing: Let your child pick a themed toothbrush for Back-to-School. So what if that hulking superhero on the handle does not match your bathroom decor? Your child will have a great check-up, and your dental bills will be small.
D. Floss Holders Rock with Kid-Friendliness: Go ahead and provide a kid-friendly floss holder. “These Y-shaped devices make flossing more comfortable.” At Dentistry for Kids, we want them to floss, but it doesn’t have to mean “old-school” equipment.
Back-to-School and Your Child’s Dental Appointment
Dentistry for Children has been a busy place recently. You see, one of the first rules of the Back-to-School regime is a dental check-up. We agree with the ADA and the Mouthhealthy.org associations that a back-to-school checkup is crucial to the fight against caries or tooth decay.” This is “the most common chronic disease found in school-age children: cavities. In fact, the dental disease causes children to miss more than 51 million school hours each year.”
The Back-to-School Check-up provides prevention and early detection. And we know that prevention can help avoid pain, trouble eating, difficulty speaking and school absences. American Dental Association spokesperson Dr. Mary Hayes stated, “When people are beginning to do their pediatrician checks to make sure their kids are school-ready, make sure teeth are part of it.” Here is an idea to help avoid the rush in August at Dentistry Offices. Next year, schedule your child’s dental appointments in the Spring when report cards appear. That way, the dental check-up won’t get lost on your list between summer sports practices, camping, and school supply shopping.
Did You Know Dental Habits Are Age-Appropriate?
We know parents have perhaps slacked off to accommodate a fluctuating schedule of camps and vacations. But now Back-to-School schedules actually help parents. With schedules in place, parents can encourage kids to brush two times a day for two minutes and floss once a day.
Most parents recognize this, but do they recognize that the art of brushing changes with the age of the child? In honor of Back-to-School days, below you will find our summaries of Dr. Hayes’ Age-Appropriate brushing tips.
Back to School Brushing for Ages 6 and Under
Did you know that in spite of his or her best efforts, your child does not yet have the fine motor skills he or she needs to brush properly? Dentistry for Children has mentioned this previously, but it is worthy of repetition.
For example, your child still needs help to brush their new molars with care. “During that age, the mouth is changing so much that children who are 5 or 6 are often brushing their teeth in the way they were when they were 2 or 3,” Dr. Hayes says. “They’re not accommodating the new molars, and they’re not accommodating the fact that the mouth is growing.” So if your child is Pre K or even First Grade, he or she needs supervision.
Back-to-School Teeth for Ages 7-12
Do your children this age know what to do but they are resistant to it? That might be the case with brushing. This age knows how to brush but resists taking the time to do it.
“Be aware of the fact that sometimes you have to take over a little bit more,” she says.
Back to School Brushing for Ages 12-18
Don’t let your child become a statistic. Dr. Hayes says this is a critical time for dental health. “When you look at research for when caries appears in kids, statistics look like it’s only prevalent in young kids. But it spikes again in the teenage years.
Perhaps this is because parents are giving them too a little too much trust. Support and respect are important, but so is the discipline of the toothbrush.
“The behaviors of the teenager are going to translate into the 20-year-old.” Remind them that they don’t have to brush any teeth they do not want to keep. They’ll laugh, but they’ll get your point—and brush regularly.
A Final Note About Dental Check-ups: Timing Is Everything
Think about your child’s best time before your appointment. We suggest that you do not schedule on a day that is full of other events. If your child takes a nap every afternoon after school, that is not a good time to schedule an appointment. “A cranky child hates to have his or her teeth cleaned. Dr. Mary says, “Not all kids have the energy to do that,”
She adds, “I will have parents who want to do very elaborate operative work after school because that’s when the kids can come out. But if the child has already been exhausted or had a bad day or had tests, they just don’t have the stamina to make it through the appointment successfully.”
Therefore, we agree you should check your child’s agenda before you make a dental appointment, as strange as that sounds.
As always, thank you for reading our Dentistry for Children blog and Welcome Back to Back-to-School Days.