As summertime comes to a close, the back-to-school season is nearly upon us. The beginning of the school year is an excellent opportunity to evaluate your child’s current dental habits, establish a new routine and schedule regular dental check-ups throughout the school year to help prevent future dental issues. If you’re wondering how to keep your kid’s teeth healthy this school year, this guide has you covered.
Check out our top 10 tips for healthy teeth in children for this school year:
1. Schedule a Back-to-School Dental Cleaning
One of the best dental tips for school students is to visit the dentist. Scheduling a dentist appointment might seem like an extra task compared to the whirlwind of buying back-to-school supplies and clothing before school starts. But a routine dentist appointment is essential to secure a healthy smile for your child on their first day. Here are a few benefits of scheduling an appointment before school:
- Free up your schedule: Attending regular appointments is an essential part of your child’s overall health care. Once the school year starts, it can be easy to miss an appointment due to work commitments and school activities. Going to the dentist before the start of school can free up your schedule later on in the year and check one more thing off your list.
- Overcome fear and anxiety: Many children may become anxious about seeing the dentist or fearful that the appointment may cause them pain. Scheduling routine appointments can help emphasize that visiting the dentist is an essential step toward good dental hygiene. Kids may then see their dentist in a more positive light once they see how beneficial these appointments are.
- Treat any dental issues: Routine dental check-ups and cleanings are crucial to treating dental problems such as cavities, receiving dental sealants or identifying if your child might need braces. Tackling these issues before the start of school is an excellent way to give your child more confidence in their smile for their first day. You’ll also help ensure their teeth are as healthy as possible to decrease the chance of needing future dental procedures or treatments.
2. Replace Their Toothbrush
Regular brushing is essential to prevent tooth decay and gum disease. One of the best tips for healthy teeth in kids is to replace their toothbrushes regularly. If you haven’t already replaced your child’s toothbrush during the summer, the start of the school year is an excellent time to purchase some new brushes for the whole family. A good-quality toothbrush is one of the most fundamental ways to keep your child’s teeth clean and healthy and free from any bacteria and plaque.
It’s a good rule of thumb to aim to replace your toothbrush every three months or when the bristles start to fray. To save yourself time, add buying a new toothbrush to your back-to-school shopping list to buy all your supplies at once in one trip.
You can also let your child pick out their toothbrush. By choosing a fun toothbrush they like, your child will feel more excited about brushing their teeth and more likely to keep up with good brushing habits. The Canadian Dental Association (CDA) recommends a soft brush with rounded bristles, and your child may need a smaller toothbrush size to reach their back teeth. Let your child pick the color and design for their toothbrush, but ensure it meets the right specs.
3. Encourage Drinking More Water
While drinking plenty of water is crucial for our body’s health, it’s also essential for the health of our teeth. Sugar can weaken tooth enamel by combining with bacteria, which can eventually lead to tooth decay. By encouraging your child to drink more water, you can help them avoid sugary drinks that can cause cavities and an extra trip to the dentist to get them treated.
Encouraging your children to drink more water can help them keep away from sugary drinks, such as juice and soda, which could potentially cause harm to their teeth. Water is also essential for their overall health, helping them maintain a healthy body weight and keep their joints and bones strong as they grow into adulthood. As a bonus, it’s also cheaper to use a reusable water bottle for school instead of purchasing multiple sodas and juice boxes for their day, so it’s a win-win situation.
4. Pack Healthy Snacks
When packing your child’s lunch for school in a rush, it can be easy to quickly throw in sugary snacks and drinks without much thought. But taking the time to plan out a healthy and nutritious lunch can help eliminate sugary and unhealthy foods from your child’s diet. Those unhealthy snacks can potentially cause cavities and tooth decay and may result in more trips to the dentist.
Consider packing tooth-healthy lunches that are filled with protein, fiber and dairy to provide a balanced meal that will fuel your child for the rest of the day and promote healthy teeth in the process. Aim to pack foods such as fresh fruits, veggies, cheese and lunch meats. These healthy meals can also encourage healthy eating habits well into their adulthood, which can help keep them healthy and happy and protect their teeth at the same time.
5. Pack a Flosser
Flossing helps remove plaque and bacteria that are often missed when brushing your teeth. If your child is not currently flossing, they are missing out on perhaps one of the most essentials ways to keep their teeth clean and healthy. Plaque is one of the leading causes of gum disease, and flossing is one of the best ways to remove it. It’s good practice to help your child develop good flossing habits by packing a hand-held flosser for them to take with them to school.
By taking a flosser to school, your child can ensure they remove any leftover food or plaque from the teeth after they’ve finished their lunch. Floss can also help them remove any food that got stuck between their teeth instead of leaving it until they get home. This tip is excellent for allowing your child to take a little responsibility and independence for flossing their teeth while at school, and it will help develop a flossing routine that will help them keep their teeth healthy as they grow older.
This tip works best for older kids who are responsible enough to floss without supervision. Go over proper flossing techniques, like taking your time and being gentle, or have your dentist help teach your child how to floss correctly.
6. Get a Mouthguard
Does your child play any sports during the school year? If so, getting a mouthguard before the start of the school year is an excellent way to plan ahead and ensure their teeth are protected while playing. Mouthguards help prevent tooth damage and loss and are essential if your child plays on any school sports teams.
Add getting your child a mouthguard to your back-to-school checklist as a great way to save time in the future. It’ll also help ensure your child is prepared for the new school year, especially if their sport starts in the fall. You can avoid scheduling a separate appointment to get a mouth guard once the busy school year starts, as well.
7. Get Involved in Your Child’s Brushing Routine
Depending on your child’s age, you may want to get more involved in their brushing routine. By being diligent with your child’s routine, you can help ensure they practice the best dental techniques to keep their teeth clean and healthy. Encourage your child to brush their teeth at least twice a day and floss at least once.
Your child will probably need some guidance to establish the best dental hygiene routine and keep their teeth healthy at almost every age. It’s always a good rule of thumb to watch their routine and step in with help and advice when needed. Here are some dental hygiene tips and advice for different ages:
Six Years Old and Under
Your child may need some extra guidance with a routine at this age. While they may want to do the brushing themselves, they might lack the fine motor skills to do it efficiently. In this case, it’s a good idea to let your child do as much as they can on their own and step in when they need some extra help.
It’s also recommended that children avoid fluoride toothpaste until they’re able to spit so they avoid swallowing fluoride when they brush.
Seven to 12 Years Old
Between the ages of 7 and 12, your child most likely knows how to brush their teeth to remove bacteria and plaque properly, but they might not always want to keep up with these habits. Children at this age are more likely to skip a few regular brushings here and there. It’s essential to continue to monitor your child’s brushing routine and encourage and remind them of good brushing and flossing habits when needed.
Twelve to 18 Years Old
At this age, your child should have established a dental routine and know how to brush and floss their teeth effectively. However, suppose teenagers have never experienced a cavity or something similar before. In that case, they may not understand the consequences of what happens when you don’t regularly brush your teeth and may subsequently skip out on regular brushing.
It would be best if you continued to guide and encourage your child to practice good oral hygiene habits to prevent any dental issues. Those measures could help your teen establish best practices to carry into adulthood.
8. Reward Your Kid for Good Habits
Another great back-to-school dental tip is to reward your child for keeping up with good oral hygiene habits. Sometimes, a reward system is best to help your child establish a dental routine that will keep their teeth healthy for a confident smile on their first day and well into adulthood. Most children respond well to rewards and may continue to brush and floss their teeth as a result, knowing they will be rewarded after.
Some rewards you could think about using are an extra, tooth-healthy snack, more TV or game time or allowing them to stay up a few extra minutes past bedtime. Think about your child’s interests and what they want the most that day. Develop a plan to incorporate their wants and interests into a reward for brushing their teeth twice a day and flossing at least once a day.
9. Establish a Routine for School
If you’re struggling to establish a set routine or time for your child to brush their teeth, the back-to-school season is an excellent opportunity to develop good dental practice. Once school starts, your child will begin to get used to waking up, eating and going to sleep around the same time each day. Help your child establish a morning routine to have them ready for school and brushing their teeth before leaving for school.
You can also help your child set up a nightly routine before bed, including brushing and flossing their teeth before going to bed. By setting up these morning and nightly routines, your child will soon get used to taking care of their teeth at roughly the same time each day. That routine could help them establish an oral hygiene habit that will help them keep their teeth healthy for the long term.
10. Make Brushing Fun
Is your child not wanting to brush their teeth each day? This can be especially common for younger children who don’t understand the benefits of dental hygiene and may not enjoy brushing their teeth. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to make brushing more fun so your child will want to brush their teeth, helping them establish good habits, like:
- Choose a toothbrush with their favorite cartoon character or color on it.
- Choose a toothbrush that plays music to ensure they brush their teeth for long enough.
- Treat brushing your teeth as a family activity to get everyone involved and model good dental hygiene behavior.
- Let your child pick their toothpaste flavor.
Helping your child view brushing and flossing their teeth as fun can help them establish feelings of wanting to brush their teeth. You can then encourage a dental hygiene routine and habit that will keep their teeth happy and healthy.
Schedule a Back-to-School Dentist Appointment With Dental Choice
The start of the school year is an excellent opportunity to help your child establish good oral hygiene habits and set them up for a future more likely to be filled with healthy teeth and a bright smile. One of the best ways to start your back-to-school dental routine is to schedule a dental cleaning appointment for your child. When it’s time for a cleaning, choose Dental Choice.
Our patients are our top priority, and we strive to improve the dental health of each member of your family. We aim to make each patient and child feel comfortable and safe, and we will keep you informed every step of the way.
This content was reviewed by Dr. Emily Ervin of our Capital Dental Choice office.
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