It’s hard to believe Kids Mile High patients are back in school kicking off another year of classes, activities, sports, and, of course, homework. What happened to those relaxing, warm summer days? With the hustle and bustle – okay, sometimes chaos –of getting to the bus stop on time, finding the groove in a jam-packed schedule and taming a flurry of papers, permission slips and books, it’s not surprising oral health routines can take a backseat. Well, we want to make sure kiddos maintain their membership in our Cavity-Free Club, which is why we’re sharing our tips for dental hygiene for kids when going back to school.
1. Keep an Eye on Brushing and Flossing Routines
We know, we know, parents have a lot on their plate during the school year. However, it’s super important to make sure your kids are brushing at least twice a day and flossing once daily. Monitoring younger children will ensure they’re getting the job done right. Positive reinforcement and things like creating a chart with stickers to track their progress can help encourage kids to stay on track. The American Dental Association has some fun activity sheets and a brushing calendar you can download for free.
2. Brush Before Breakfast
While this might sound counterintuitive, getting kids in the habit of brushing their teeth as soon as they wake up can help establish a routine. This is even more relevant if orange juice or citrus fruits usually make an appearance at breakfast. Brushing within 30 minutes after eating or drinking something acidic can actually damage the enamel and underlying layer of the teeth, called dentin. Instead, have kids brush before their morning meal and rinse with water afterwards.
Brushing sessions should last for about two minutes and we know time is precious, especially during the back-to-school rush. For little kids, in the morning, ask them to brush their teeth while you comb their hair or give them the rundown of the schedule for the day. In the evening, try reading them a chapter from a book or going over some spelling words.
4. Pack Healthy Snacks and Consider Brown Bagging It
While there has been a push for schools to serve healthier lunches, often times, processed foods that are high in refined carbohydrates and sugar are still par for the course and you can’t always count on youngsters to make the most nutritious decision. Bacteria feed on starches and sugar and produce acid, leading to cavities. If you have the time, packing a lunch and snacks can increase the odds that your child will eat something that’s good for them and there are tons of great ideas for healthy school lunches floating around. A few recommendations include crunchy fruits and vegetables, which have the added bonus of acting as natural toothbrushes, low-fat yogurt, milk and cheese, as they’re good for strengthening chompers and nuts and seeds since they can protect enamel. If your kid will be buying lunch at school or you know they’re snacking a lot, balance it out with healthy, fresh food at home and making sure they’re extra diligent with brushing and flossing.
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5. Water, Water and More Water
Sugary drinks like soda, chocolate milk, sports drinks and even fruit juice are notorious for causing tooth decay. Fill up your child’s water bottle and have them bring it along with them to school and try to reinforce that they should choose water over other beverages.
6. Talk About Teeth
You can’t trail your kid at school and force them to make healthy decisions all day. The best you can do is educate them about the importance of their oral health and how to keep their teeth and gums healthy and happy.
7. Give them Sugarless Gum with Xylitol
Most schools aren’t keen on kids chewing gum (have you ever looked underneath a desk or lunchroom table?), however, in between school and whatever activity you’re carting them off to, give them a piece of sugarless gum with xylitol. Chewing gum gets the spit going to wash away bacteria and xylitol is thought to defeat sugar bugs and prevent plaque formation.
8. Invest in a Mouthguard
If your child is playing sports or doing any activity where they could injure their mouth, a mouthguard is an absolute must even if it’s not required by the team. Athletes who don’t wear mouthguards are 60 times more likely to experience trauma to their teeth. At Kids Mile High, we’re an authorized provider of custom Under Armour mouthguards. Your child will get a perfect fit and you can avoid dealing with chipped or missing teeth. If an accident does happen and they weren’t wearing a mouthguard, get them to the dentist as soon as possible. A tooth that has been knocked out can actually be re-implanted in many cases as long as it’s within an hour of the incident.
9. Make Dental Checkups a Priority
The single best tip for how to keep kids teeth healthy in school is to schedule regular visits to the dentist for exams and cleanings. We check their teeth and gums for any issues, get rid of hardened plaque that won’t come off with regular brushing and flossing at home and chat with them about how they can improve their oral hygiene routine. If we do discover a cavity or other problem, the earlier we deal with it, the easier treatment will be. Preventative care, like dental sealants, can also go a long way in protecting their pearly whites.
Put these ideas into action to keep your kid’s smile dazzling, intact and cavity-free while they’re hitting the books and running loose on the playground. If you’re on the hunt for a Denver pediatric dentist, look no further than Dr. Paddy. At Kids Mile High, we make dental hygiene fun to encourage a lifetime of amazing oral health in and out of school. Schedule an appointment today. We hope everyone has an awesome school year!