IDAHO — School is back in session for many kids across the nation, and as you get back into the swing of things, it's a good time to make sure your child's oral health is up to date.
"The first and most important thing is to take your kids to the dentist if they haven't been yet this year," says Dr. Shaun Christensen from Middle Creek Dental in Nampa. "Make an appointment. Make sure they get their teeth cleaned and x-rays and those preventative treatments and just make sure that they're cavity-free before the school year begins."
Setting good standards for your child's oral hygiene starts even before you book a dentist appointment. Pack healthy lunches that avoid sugary and salty foods or snacks and encourage them to drink plenty of water. Try to teach your kids to reach for nuts, vegetables, lean meats, and cheese to promote a healthy mouth.
Dr. Christensen says it's important to remember that kids learn by example so try to motivate them to take care of their teeth on their own by making them part of your oral hygiene routine and brush and floss with them.
"Most children will need help brushing their teeth until they enter school, and even after they enter school, you can motivate your kids by playing their favorite song. We recommend brushing and flossing twice a day obviously, but for those kids who need to be reminded, you can make a chart for them so they can mark it off or play their favorite song on your phone. That's usually two to three minutes long so you can make sure they're brushing for an adequate amount of time."
With the return of school, fall sports are also making a comeback, and there are some steps families should take now to keep their children smiling after practices and games.
"Every year in this country, there's five million teeth that are displaced by accidents during sports, and that adds up to over half a million emergency room visits," says Dr. Christensen. "In contact sports like football, that's usually mandated that kids have a mouthguard, but even I've seen patients come in with basketball injuries, soccer, volleyball. It's important to wear a mouthguard."
Dr. Christensen says dentists can create a custom mouthguard, but if that isn't feasible for your family, try to find a boil-and-bite mouthguard at a grocery or sporting goods store to protect the teeth, gums, tongue, and jaw.