Healthy Beginnings

Back to School Dental Hygiene Tips to Keep Your Child’s Mouth Happy and Healthy

As summer comes to a close and our kids all return to an exciting new year of school, it’s important to not forget some implications this might mean for our loved ones. School is a bustling time for children and parents alike, filled with daily emotions of stress, joy and responsibility… it can also mean a time for potential dental pitfalls. With school regulations that essentially don’t allow children to brush after lunch or snacks, good dental hygiene practices become ever more important. Decay, infections and high dental bills can hit families hard, both from an emotional aspect as well as a financial one. Preventing this is absolutely paramount, and remarkably easy!

Snacks. Everybody loves snacks. Frequent, small meals throughout the day are also a terrific way to balance blood sugar levels, maintain concentration and given our kids the energy they need to tackle the day’s challenges. It can also have some significant repercussions for our dental health. Every meal, the acidity level in our oral cavities decreases, increasing our susceptibility to decay and dental infection. Juices and sugary snacks heighten this risk greatly and can quickly lead to decay without proper oral hygiene. Fruit snacks, juice, candies… we all know the culprits. So what is a parent to do? Healthy alternatives such as fruits, veggies and unrefined carbohydrates in the form of whole grains are a terrific place to start. Speaking as a parent, that can be a hard sell to a little one, so it’s important to pick fruits and veggies that kids tend to be more amenable to in the first place! Carrot sticks, whole apples, rhubarb… hmmm, forget that last one. When push comes to shove, those healthy alternatives will also give our kids overall better nutrition and even more energy levels!

Improving our children’s diet during school time is of absolute importance in maintaining dental and overall health, but there are other things we, as parents, need to do to protect our little ones from dental mayhem. Brush and floss. It’s such an easy statement, but it can be downright difficult with kids! Brushing AND flossing after breakfast gives our kids a beautiful smile and clean start to their day. All too often, I hear from parents that they make their kids brush right when they wake up or get dressed… and then they have their breakfast. The sugars in that breakfast will remain in their teeth all day, feeding and supplying the oral bacteria with everything they need to cause damage to their oral health. At the end of the school day, after snacks and lunch, one of the best things a parent can do is help them brush right when they come home. Ideally, brushing right after lunch would provide their already susceptible dentition with less food source for bacteria, increased fluoride contact and uptake, and good oral hygiene habits. Parents with children who are currently undergoing orthodontic treatment – this is incredibly important, as food caught between the orthodontic brackets can give rise to unsightly “white spots” or outright decay in very visible areas. Following dinner, brushing and flossing right before bed is a downright necessity.

Fluoride. The knight in shining armor that protects the oral cavity from nasty invaders such as Streptococcus mutans and other detrimental bacteria. Some schools provide fluoride programs where children are given fluoride gels and/or tabs during the course of the day to aid in dental health. If your school provides such a program, it is my hearty recommendation to do it! Minimal cost, but the gains are undisputed!

Most importantly, I hope you and your loved ones have a tremendous school year full of learning, fun and friends! While the stresses and daily rigors of life can get pretty intense during the academic year, it’s always important to remember that these times come and go more quickly than we care to realize.

For more information, call Clear Creek Dental, LLC at 775-267-2244 or visit www.ClearCreekDentristry.com.