It’s hard to believe another summer break has come to a close for most of our kids, yet here it is. Though my own children are now in college, I will never forget the days of school supply lists and figuring out what they would be wearing on their first days so long ago at St. Albert’s.
And while it’s a jam-packed time for all of us busy parents full of lists and plans, one thing that may take a backburner is a child’s dental routine. It’s easy to fall out of habits as schedules change, so this is your friendly reminder from your neighborhood dentist who routinely sees your kids: Please consider a few ideas about dental hygiene as you head back to school this year. I promise these are relatively easy, but they make a HUGE difference to your kids’ amazing smiles.
Brush and floss: As the kids start school again, they’ll be reminded of the basics they’ve forgotten over the past few months. That makes this a perfect time to remind them of this very back-to-basics dental reminder as well! Brushing should be done at least twice a day, preferably after meals and before bedtime. Encourage your child to brush for two minutes, and make sure they understand the importance of brushing all parts of the mouth, including the tongue. Toothbrushes should be replaced every three months and after an illness, so consider adding new toothbrushes to your back to school list! As important as brushing is, flossing is equally so, and should be done daily to remove plaque and food particles from places a toothbrush can’t reach. Make sure you’re always stocked up so it’s never an excuse not to floss.
Healthy diet: A healthy diet is as important for our teeth as it is for the rest of our bodies. Take some time to build a school lunch list with your kids, getting their input about healthy options to pack (maybe even encouraging them to pack lunch the night before for maximum stress reduction). When brainstorming lunch options, make sure they understand the need for a good variety of grains, milk, cheese, raw vegetables, yogurt or fruit. If your child eats hot lunch, go over their options with them to ensure they know which are healthiest. Again, no surprise, but cut back on (or eliminate altogether) soda and sugary snacks.
Protection: If your child participates in sports, make sure they have a properly fitted mouthguard. These are just as critical as other safety equipment and are designed to protect your child’s teeth in the event of a blow to the face and head. This can occur in pretty much any sport where players make physical contact — so while you think of the “typical” ones like football and soccer, facial and mouth injuries can just as easily happen in gymnastics and mountain biking. Mouthguards come in three types: custom-made, which are individually designed for your child in the dentist’s office; boil and bite, which are pre-formed but can be altered by boiling in water; and stock from the store. I like Nike and Under Armour brands for sporting activities. Mouthguards should be replaced after each season because they can wear down and your child’s mouth is continuing to grow. Again, ask your dentist for the best option for your child.
Dental emergencies: Take a few minutes as the kids go back to school to talk about what to do if a tooth happens to get knocked out on the playground or during sports activities. The reason: They need to act quickly to save it! Here’s what should happen: Carefully pick it up without touching the root, and keep it moist. This can be done by putting it back in the socket or keeping it in a glass of milk. Then, they’ll need to get to the dentist as quickly as possible. With a cracked tooth, have your child rinse with warm water, which will clean the tooth and remove and debris in the mouth. Place a cold cloth against your child’s cheek to stop the swelling, then call your dentist for further instructions.
Dental checkups: Regular dental visits are as important as checkups for the rest of the body. You’ll probably want an appointment that doesn’t take your kids out of school, so call your dentist sooner rather than later to schedule an early morning or late afternoon appointment. The exam will let you know spots your child may be missing, and also if there are more serious problems. Your dentist may also suggest fluoride treatments, sealants or other preventive measures. And sometimes, reminders to brush more frequently (or more thoroughly) have more weight coming from a dentist than they do from a parent. You’ve got enough on your plate — let us help you with these gentle nudges!
Well there you go — a few considerations as your kids go back to school for the 2019-2020 school year. We’re wishing you a happy, healthy year full of lots of giant smiles as your kids learn and grow. And if you’re looking for a family dentist, we invite you to consider Wild About Smiles, where we specialize in dentistry for children and those with special needs. You can learn more about us at www.waskids.com, or give us a call at (775) 331-9477.
Dr. Perry Francis, his wife and two children have called Reno home for 34 years. At his practice, Wild About Smiles, his team specializes in dental care for infants, children, young adults and people with special needs. He has offices in Sparks (just one mile from the freeway exit at 395 and North McCarran in Reno) and Fallon.