Follow These Tips for a Great Back-to-School Dental Checkup

As every parent discovers this time of year, there are a great many things moms and dads have to do to prepare their kids to return to school. For example, children need new clothes and new school supplies. Nothing, however, is more important than a back to school dental checkup, preferably one that yields a clean bill of dental health.

Dental tips for back to school

Regular dental checkups fight cavities, the chronic illness school-age kids suffer from the most. In fact, dental problems are responsible for children missing more than 51 million hours of school each and every year and parents missing 2.5 days of work on average to get those children to the dentist. Dental problems produce pain, can make it difficult for kids to eat, and can interfere with their speech, all issues that can easily hinder learning. (Conversely, sound dental health is correlated with good grades.)

But there’s no reason for your child to struggle under any such handicap. These dental care tips will make sure your child has a great back to school checkup with no nasty and expensive surprises waiting in the wings.

Dental Tips: A Good Oral Hygiene Routine at Home

As you would probably expect, dental health begins with effective daily oral hygiene, and parents should encourage children to brush twice daily for two minutes each time. Parents should watch their children brush the first several times to make sure they are brushing properly. Setting a timer or downloading a suitable cell phone app can help motivate them.

Kids should also learn to floss once a day. You can teach children to floss by explaining the process and showing them how it’s done.

It’s common to add fluoride to drinking water and toothpaste because fluoride makes teeth stronger and fights tooth decay. If you believe a child would benefit from more fluoride, possibly because you use well water in your home and it has no fluoridation, consider fluoride treatments. These commonly come in the form a gel that releases fluoridate to fight bacteria when the mouth becomes acidic.

Sealants can also fight cavities by filling dips and grooves in the teeth where plaque and bacteria might otherwise accumulate.

Limiting candy and other sweets limits the degree to which they increase the level of damaging acid in the mouth. If a child is going to get sweets at all, it’s best if he or she gets them after a meal. The food the child ate previously provides a level of protection. He or she should brush afterward to get rid of leftover sugar and sugary residue.

Parents should check children’s teeth from time to time and schedule a dental appointment if they notice anything that seems problematic.

To a large degree, these dental hygiene tips hold true for children of every age. In addition, though, children of different ages have different specific dental care needs.

  • Age 6 and under. Naturally, parents want to train children to eventually see to his or her effective daily oral hygiene routine without prompting or assistance and have this develop into a lifelong health habit. But what not every mom or dad realizes is that very young children generally lack the fine motor skills to do a completely effective job of brushing. Thus, if a child is eager to brush, that’s to be encouraged, but parents should still supervise and be ready to take over as necessary to get teeth thoroughly clean. As they observe, parents should be alert to the fact that a child’s mouth is growing and changing considerably during this time. For example, new molars are coming in. Yet the child may still be brushing as he or she was accustomed to brush at a younger age.
  • Ages 7-12. At this age, most kids know what to do, but the joy of pleasing Mom and Dad by doing an excellent job may have worn off a little. Parents may have to monitor as they did before and insist as needed.
  • Ages 12-18. It may seem unfair, but if parents have made sure children avoided cavities up until the teenage years, it can actually work against them. If teens have avoided dental problems up until adolescence, they may take good dental health for granted and start neglecting their daily oral health routines. Should that occur, Mom and Dad will need to remind the teenager of what’s required. This is important not only to deal with immediate oral health issues, also the dental health habits the teen practices are likely to become his or her habits throughout adulthood.

Dental Tips: Planning for the Back-to-School Dental Checkup

Following the oral health tips listed above is important, but even an effective daily dental health routine won’t necessarily prevent cavities and other dental problems all by itself. Everyone needs regular dental cleanings and checkups twice a year (or more often if the dentist recommends that for your particular case.) Cleanings get rid of calculus that even dedicated brushing and flossing fails to clear away. Checkups catch problems like cavities, discoloration, and issues with tooth and jaw growth early before they have a chance to worsen, become overtly troublesome, and are more complicated and expensive to remedy.

In short, no matter how well you and your child have looked after his or her daily dental health routine, he or she really does need that back-to-school dental checkup. Here are tips to ensure the checkup is as stress-free and productive as possible.

  • Make sure you really do schedule the appointment.This might seem so obvious it doesn’t need to be said, but the truth is that we’re all busy. Don’t forget about this vital step in your child’s healthcare. Scheduling it before the actual start of the school year when life can become even more hectic is often a good idea.
  • Make sure the child isn’t tired. Tired kids are often cranky, uncooperative kids, and that can make the dental appointment an ordeal for all concerned. Don’t schedule the dental appointment for a time when a child is accustomed to nap, and if he or she is not at his best immediately after waking from a nap, don’t schedule for that time, either. Similarly, appointments following school or day camp can be problematic. It’s quite possible a long day of activity has the child worn out.
  • Make sure the child isn’t hungry.Hungry kids can be cranky, uncooperative kids as well. Feed your child a light meal before coming to the office. A light meal is less likely to engage the child’s gag reflex at an inopportune moment, and a meal at home is better than a snack in the waiting room because at home, the child can then brush. A child who eats in the waiting room comes in to see the dentist with all those new food particles still in his or her mouth.
  • Help the child be positive about seeing the dentist. Emphasize the idea that seeing the dentist is a step toward good dental health, and good dental health is an accomplishment the child can be proud of. Avoid negative language such as saying that a given procedure only hurts a little. You’re still conveying the expectation that it will hurt. Additionally, be aware that it helps the child to be positive if you’re genuinely positive yourself. If you’re afraid of going to the dentist, your son or daughter is likely to pick up on that, so if you have such feelings, perhaps it’s time to work through them.
  • If the child becomes uncooperative, stay calm and carry on.If the child becomes a behavior problem during the dental appointment, don’t end the visit to try again another day. Ending the visit reinforces the behavior and makes it likely you’ll see it again. Instead, try to evaluate why your son or daughter is upset. If the problem is that the child is afraid or upset by a perceived lack of control, you may know just what to say to allay those feelings. Let the dentist lead the conversation and build rapport with the child while you join in where it feels natural and useful to speak.

Dental Tips: When There’s an Emergency

Finally, at some point, your child may have a dental emergency. For example, he or she could fall and break a tooth, and this could happen virtually anywhere. Thus it’s a good idea if teachers, caregivers, and coaches have the child’s emergency contact information including the dentist’s phone number, and of course you want ready access to them as well. To that end, put one of your dentist’s business cards in your wallet, one on your refrigerator, give one to the school for their files, and program the number into your mobile phone.

If a child knocks out a tooth, pick it up without touching the root and keep it damp. You may be able to accomplish this by replacing it in the socket temporarily or putting it between the child’s cheek and gum. If not, put it in a glass of milk.

If a child cracks a tooth, have him or her rinse with warm water to clean the tooth and get rid of debris in the mouth. A cold cloth set against the child’s cheek minimizes swelling and inflammation.

Whether the tooth is broken or cracked, contact your dentist as soon as possible.