It’s hard to believe that summer is almost over! After two months of summer fun, our pediatric dentists at Stellar Kids Dentistry in Mukilteo, Mill Creek, and Everett, Washington, know how stressful it is to prepare for the upcoming school year. Every family is different, but we all have back-to-school shopping to do, last-minute appointments to schedule, and summer projects to complete.
Whether you’re just coming out of vacation mode or ordering back-to-school supplies as we speak, you likely have a busy few weeks ahead. One item you might want to check off your list before school starts is checking in on your kids’ oral health.
Good dental hygiene is essential for a healthy smile. Unfortunately, summer break can disrupt your family’s routine. We want to keep your children’s teeth healthy and beautiful. That’s why we’ve put together some helpful tips to get your family’s oral hygiene back on track for school:
Schedule a teeth cleaning.
A teeth cleaning once every 6 months helps prevent cavities, gum disease, and other serious dental problems. Scheduling a teeth cleaning before back-to-school madness starts means your little ones will head to class with bright, healthy smiles.
These routine cleanings also include a dental exam. During this exam, our kids’ dentist evaluates your child’s bite, checks for signs of tooth damage, and ensures their jaws are developing as expected.
What happens during a teeth cleaning
When your child comes in for a teeth cleaning and dental exam, our dental hygienist may take digital X-rays. These are far more comfortable than traditional X-rays. They also produce less radiation and allow us to store images digitally for future reference. Our team then examines your child’s mouth and teeth for any abnormalities.
The goal of a teeth cleaning is to remove plaque, a type of clingy bacteria. When plaque sticks to the teeth, it releases toxins that eat away at healthy tooth enamel. This is how cavities form. After removing plaque, the dentist brushes, flosses, and polishes your child’s teeth. Our team may also apply a strengthening fluoride treatment if it might benefit your child’s oral health.
Make sure all oral appliances are up-to-date.
Before your kids head back to class, make sure they have up-to-date oral appliances. These devices may include:
A night guard is a custom-made device that fits over your child’s top or bottom teeth. It prevents damage from bruxism (teeth grinding) and temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ).
Bruxism, or teeth grinding, occurs when the tops and bottom teeth scrape together. Since teeth grinding happens most often during sleep, it’s important to make sure your child’s night guard still functions properly. Over time, teeth grinding can lead to tooth pain, headaches, and more.
TMJ affects the temporomandibular joints that are located on each side of your child’s jaw. These hinge-like joints are responsible for the lower jaw’s range of motion. They allow the mouth to open and close without pain. When the joints or surrounding muscles are damaged, your child can experience:
- Jaw pain
- Facial swelling
- Popping or clicking in the jaw
- Difficulty chewing
A night guard can help shift your child’s jaw into a position that relieves pressure from the TMJ joints. Not only is this more comfortable, it also prevents additional pain and damage.
If your child plays school sports, they may need a sports guard. This custom-made mouth guard protects their teeth and gums against injury. Unlike drugstore mouth guards, a custom sports guard fits your child’s teeth perfectly for maximum comfort.
Have fun while brushing and flossing.
Routines and rules tend to relax over the summer. With longer days of sunshine and no school schedule, it’s easy to miss a night of brushing and flossing. The best way to set your kids up for success is to make brushing and flossing fun again.
Buy a new toothbrush.
If possible, take your child to the store to pick out a new toothpaste and toothbrush. Have them choose a style with their favorite color, pattern, or cartoon character. This small step encourages your family to look forward to brushing their teeth.
Use flavored floss.
There are many types of floss on the market, and many are made specifically with children in mind. If your little one doesn’t like flossing, look for flavored floss. Flavors like bubblegum, mint, and berry are tasty enough to brighten any flossing routine.
Does your child have a favorite song? If so, playing a quick tune may be just the incentive they need to brush and floss twice a day.
Get crafty with rewards.
A star chart, sticker calendar, special game, or story time are all excellent rewards for twice-daily brushing and flossing. Choose an incentive you know your little one will want to work for.
Establish a routine.
Consistency in brushing and flossing can help prevent cavities and gum disease.
Following a routine sets daily expectations for you kids to brush and floss. With consistent practice, brushing and flossing should feel as natural as putting on their socks before school. It’s simply another task to check off their list before heading out in the morning.
How to establish an oral hygiene routine
There are many tips and tricks we have for keeping your kids interested in their dental health. If your child is struggling to brush and floss, you can:
- Set a timer
- Stick to a regular schedule
- Brush and floss together
- Make gentle reminders
Helping your kids establish a dental routine encourages them to continue creating healthy habits as they grow.
Pack healthy snacks.
Popsicles, ice cream, and sugary drinks are summer treats that kids love. Without the routine of school and homework, summer can make denying sweet treats difficult. This is especially true if your family likes to vacation in the summer or spends a lot of time away from home.
Swapping soda and fruit juice for water is an easy way to protect your children’s dental health. Water washes away bacteria and food particles before they cling to your kids’ teeth. It also boosts saliva production to prevent dry mouth — a major cause of bad breath in kids.
Apples have fibrous skin that can remove old food particles and clean teeth. They also increase saliva to prevent cavities, gum disease, and more.
Spinach, kale, and chard are all leafy greens that contain vitamin D, folic acid, and other essential vitamins and minerals. These nutrients help protect and strengthen your child’s teeth, among other important health benefits.
Eggs and milk
Eggs and milk are excellent sources of protein and vitamin D, which helps teeth absorb calcium. Milk, in particular, helps build strong, healthy teeth. Meanwhile, eggs are very filling snacks that can help maintain your kids’ energy levels throughout the day.
For more back-to-school dental tips, call a pediatric dentist at Stellar Kids Dentistry or schedule an appointment online today!