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Back-to-school Oral Health Checklist

Summer is winding down and children are beginning to transition back to school schedules and routines. Dental hygiene should be made an essential part of any child’s routine, especially after an event-filled summer. During the summer season, kids tend to snack more on sugary treats due to relaxed schedules and care-free attitudes. Now is the perfect time to start thinking about how you can implement healthy oral hygiene into your new back-to-school routines.

Here is a simple oral hygiene checklist you can follow to help keep your child’s mouth in good shape:

Stay Up to Date on Dental Cleanings and Cavity Checks

Many people like to put off dental visits during the summer months to make more time for vacation and summer activities. If your child is due for a cleaning, make sure to give your dentist a call sooner than later to get that scheduled. You should have your child’s teeth cleaned every 6 months. During these cleanings, the dentist will be sure to check for any decay on your child’s teeth. Cavities are very common amongst children and should be filled as soon as possible to keep teeth healthy and strong.

Regular dental checkups in children are especially important because aside from just cleaning teeth and checking for cavities, dentists will also look for malocclusions (misaligned teeth) and other teeth problems that could be present in young mouths. They could be misaligned due to genetics, overbites, grinding, or a number of other problems. Regular checkups at the dentist will help recognize any problems early so that they can be treated properly.

Learn About Gum Health and Flossing

Having healthy gums is the foundation for maintaining a healthy mouth. Your gums help protect your teeth from bacteria and food entering the deeper parts of your teeth. If your gums become infected, bacteria can impact the entire structure of your teeth, causing plaque buildup and the potential for cavities or gingivitis. Teach your children the importance of flossing for their gum health and help them learn to floss properly. It’s best to floss once daily to eliminate further buildup between teeth after meals. Flossing can cover up to 40% of your tooth’s surface that a toothbrush can’t reach, so don’t skip it!

Tips and tricks for encouraging children to floss:

  • Read kids books about flossing. Children aren’t always receptive to being told what to do, but implementing enjoyable activities like reading a fun book about flossing could help motivate your child to want to floss more.
  • Let them pick out what kind of floss they want to use. Kids may have a difficult time with flossing, so allow them to choose what they feel comfortable with. Flosser sticks might be easier than traditional floss. They will also feel empowered by getting to choose their own floss and be more likely to want to try it out.
  • Talk to your kid about why flossing is important. It’s okay to tell them about the negative consequences of not flossing. Don’t scare your children, but determine an age-appropriate way to educate them.
  • Don’t overdo it. Your kid should be flossing once a day for the best dental health. There is no need to force them to floss after every meal or with every brushing. Let them choose if the morning or evening works best, and help them implement it into their routine.

Establish Morning and Evening Routines

Mornings can feel pretty chaotic once summer is over and the kids are rushing to get ready for school. It will be important to implement a good teeth brushing routine. To be the most effective, encourage your children to brush their teeth immediately after eating. If you find your child is often running late in the morning, try getting them up 10 minutes early so that they always have time to brush their teeth after a healthy meal.

Evening routines are just as important as morning ones. Whenever the last snack or meal of the day has been consumed, make sure to brush those pearly whites one last time before heading off to bed. Pair brushing your teeth with other evening activities like laying out clothes for the next day. Putting it into an existing routine will make it easier for children to remember.

Tips to help encourage children to brush regularly:

  • Model good behavior. Children are smart and perceptive. If you aren’t brushing, flossing, and using mouthwash, your children will think they too can get away without doing it. Brushing alongside your children will help encourage them to be just like you!
  • Listen to their complaints about brushing. Your child may have tantrums to get out of brushing, but they might also have a serious problem. Gum disease or tooth decay can cause severe pain and make brushing uncomfortable. Practice listening to your kids' complaints to see if there are any problems you can help them with.
  • Make brushing fun and not just a chore. Use a sticker chart to mark every time your child brushes, or get a fun musical toothbrush.

Plan Healthy Lunches and Snacks Throughout the Day

Going back to school means being away from the house for 6-8 hours out of the day. Most kids aren’t going to take a toothbrush to school with them. To help keep a healthy smile, try packing snacks that are known to help clean teeth. Crunchy whole foods like carrots and apples can be a good snack for helping remove plaque build-up. Apples have even been known to help reduce bad breath. Help plan snacks and meals with your children so that you know they will get snacks that they enjoy, but also nutritious snacks that won’t eat away at their enamel throughout the day.

Pack Sugar-Free Gum

If your child is old enough, and their school allows it, send a pack of sugar-free gum to school with them. Chewing gum immediately after a meal has multiple benefits. First, it will help your child have fresh breath. Second, it actually increases your saliva production which helps remove acid from your teeth and keeps the enamel strong. Chewing gum may also help dislodge any food that gets stuck between the teeth.

Double check if your school’s policy allows chewing gum, and if they do, make sure to pack some for an after-lunch treat. It will help keep your kid’s teeth cleaner throughout the day.

This list should help you and your children prepare for the upcoming school year and create a plan to ensure the best dental hygiene you can. If you are looking to schedule an exam, please call us at Family Dental Health Center for an appointment. You can contact our office at 208-529-0120. Don’t wait to have proper dental hygiene. Stay on top of all of your dental needs today.