Back to School: Oral Hygiene Tips for Kids
By: Pediatric Dentist Aline Dufresne
It’s time for kids to go back to school, so it’s a great time to brush up on oral hygiene tips for keeping your kids’ teeth healthy.
According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, more than 50 percent of children will be affected by tooth decay before age 5. In addition, a report from the Office of the Surgeon General notes that more than 51 million school hours are lost each year to dental-related conditions. You can help your child stay healthy by following these oral hygiene tips and starting the school year off right!
Getting Back into the Back-to-School Routine
Establishing a daily oral hygiene routine is important especially for young ones. Making sure children brush their teeth each morning and then right before bed is key.
It’s best to stick to a routine throughout the whole year because if your child brushes and flosses at the same time each day, they’ll learn that it should become part of their routine, just like getting dressed in the morning or putting on pajamas at night.
Ways to Make Brushing More Fun for Your Child
Since many kids love special trinkets, you can take your child to the store so they can pick out their own toothbrush, toothpaste, and other supplies. Children should use a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste size if they’re 3 years old, or just a smear of fluoride toothpaste if they’re under 3. Your child can choose a special character toothbrush or one that lights up or plays music during brushing. No matter the toothbrush, make sure that your child brushes for two minutes at a time.
You can also give your child stickers or another small reward when they brush so they receive positive reinforcement from you each time.
Parents’ Involvement in a Child’s Dental Routine
Parents play a large role in helping a child establish good oral hygiene habits. You can teach your child about brushing and flossing by using the “tell show do method,” which is something we use at our clinics during pediatric dentistry appointments. With this method, you’ll engage your kids in learning how to brush and floss properly by giving them both visual and verbal cues. Learn more about the tell show do method.
Pack Tooth-Friendly Lunches for School
When you’re in a rush, it’s easy to pack a lunch for your child that’s full of sugary snacks and drinks. However, remember that whatever your child eats for lunch, the sugars on those foods will react with bacteria in the mouth to create an acid that sits on your child’s teeth for the rest of the day. Instead, consider packing a lunch that’s high in proteins, fibers, and dairy and include items such as meats, cheese, and fresh fruits. Learn more about diet and oral health.
Watch this short video to learn more about packing healthy lunches:
Is Sugar Really that Bad for Children’s Teeth?
Sugar is very harmful to teeth—especially in children. Baby teeth have a thinner layer of enamel than permanent teeth, which makes them very susceptible to cavities. When bacteria in the mouth comes into contact with sugars from food and drink, together they create an acid that destroys the enamel. It only takes the bacteria about 20 seconds to convert it to acid and that acid is active for about 20 to 30 minutes.
Be sure to monitor how much sugar your child consumes throughout the day. Candy or other sweet treats should follow a meal because the flow of saliva is high at this point and it can help wash the sugars away. If your child needs a snack between meals, choose fresh fruits, vegetables, popcorn, nuts or other salty foods instead of sweets.
Juice is a big culprit for tooth decay in children. Though juice has some vitamins and antioxidants, it has a very high amount of sugar. Children should have only four to six ounces of juice per day from a cup as a part of a meal or snack. Learn more about how juice affects teeth.
Schedule Your Child’s Dental Appointments in Advance
The beginning of the school year is a great time to plan for your child’s dental visits. Keep in mind that your child should see a pediatric dentist every six months, so the earlier your schedule their appointments, the better the appointments will fit into your schedule. Our Sturtevant clinic is open one Saturday per month, and other Dental Associates clinics are open one to two Saturdays. Plan ahead for your child’s visits so you can choose a date and time that works best for you!