The summer is almost over, and that means only one thing – it's time to buy school supplies, fill backpacks, and pack lunches for the new school year. Back-to-school time is commonly the time to catch up on medical check-ups and vaccinations, so while you're at it, it's also a good time to make sure that your child's dental health doesn't get overlooked. Take a look at some back-to-school tips that can help you keep your child's teeth healthy in the upcoming school year.
School is great for your child's brain, but it's not always great for your child's teeth. Even if you pack your child's lunch every day, you can't necessarily prevent them from trading their carrot sticks for a candy bar or eating a lollipop they get for acing their spelling test. You can, however, give them the tools they need to take care of their teeth. So, when you're shopping for school supplies, pick up a travel toothbrush and sample-sized tube of toothpaste that your child can easily slip in their backpack.
Hopefully, your child won't be the only one brushing their teeth after lunch. However, some kid do get shy about brushing their teeth in a public restroom. You might try letting your child pick out a travel toothbrush that they like to encourage them to actually do the brushing. It may also help to have a talk with the parents of some of your child's friends – if all of their friends are also brushing their teeth after lunchtime or snack time, they may be less likely to see it as an embarrassing activity.
Tooth-Healthy Lunchbox Snacks
Another thing that you can do to help keep your child's teeth in great shape is make sure that they have tooth-friendly snacks and drinks in their lunchbox. It's easy to think that crackers and chips are fine for the teeth because they're not sugary, but the truth is, these starchy foods can be just as bad for your child's teeth. Substitute nuts or roasted edamame if your child likes a crunchy snack with their lunch. If your child likes cheese, some cheese cubes with their lunch can actually help prevent cavities. Cheese lowers the pH levels in the mouth, preventing acid from causing tooth decay.
One of the best things that you can do for your child's dental health is leave sugary sodas and juices out of their lunchbox. Save those for when the kids are at home and you can be certain they're brushing their teeth when they're done. Send milk or water to go with school lunches and snacks. If you choose water, send a thermos of tap water instead of bottled water. Your tap water is most likely fluoridated, and bottled water is often not. Some dentists say that too much bottled water is leading to a rise in cavities in children's teeth.
While you're making appointments for sports physicals and vaccinations, this is a good time to schedule an appointment with the family dentist for a dental check-up and a professional cleaning. That way, your child can start the school year with a clean bill of dental health and a bright, freshly-polished smile.
Depending on your child's age, this may also be a good time to ask the dentist about dental sealants. Dental sealants are thin plastic coatings that the dentist applies over your child's back teeth. They provide a barrier between the surface of your child's teeth and bacteria, acid, and food particles in the mouth, so they can help prevent cavities. Dentists recommend applying sealants as soon as permanent molars appear, which is at around six years and then again at around twelve years, so if you have kids around that age, it makes sense to ask about sealants before school starts.
Tooth infections and cavities mean pain that makes it hard to study and time away from school for dental appointments. Making tooth health part of the back-to-school preparations will help set your child up for a great new school year.
For more information and tips, talk with a dentist in your area, such as Tony Parsley, DMD.