Backpack? Check. Booster shots? Check. Teeth cleaning? Check!
Regular dental visits are important year-round, but a back-to-school checkup is key in fighting the most common chronic disease found in school-age children: cavities. In fact, dental disease causes children to miss more than 51 million school hours each year.
Encourage Age-Appropriate Dental Habits at Home
The best kind of checkup is a cavity-free checkup. Moms and dads can help make this happen by encouraging kids to brush twice a day for two minutes and floss once a day. Here’s Dr. Goodwin’s age-by-age advice:
Ages 6 and Under:
At this age, your child might want to do all the brushing himself or herself but doesn’t have the fine motor skills needed to do a thorough job. Dr. Goodwin recommends: “Parents, this is a great time to teach your child healthy dental habits! They want to practice brushing and flossing. That is great! However, they will need help brushing and flossing their teeth to ensure that areas are not missed. This is also a great time to teach healthy food habits. Babies should not be put to bed or naps with a bottle or sippy cup- this leads to milk or juice sitting on the teeth during sleep and increases the incidence of cavities. Also limit the eating of sugary treats to meals and avoid the practice of letting your child eat and drink all day long. The continuous exposure to foods and drinks feed bacteria and increase the likelihood of cavities. There is a saying: Sip all day, get tooth decay. This doesn’t just apply to young children- it applies to all ages!
By now, your child knows what to do, he or she just need reminding and reviewing. Keep encouraging healthy brushing and flossing habits. Dr. Goodwin recommends: “At this age, your child is beginning to understand more self-care. This is a great time to let them brush and floss their teeth on their own and have a parent check their habits (just like you would check their homework). Remember to continue teaching healthy habits of nutrition.”
This is a critical time for dental health. The teenage years are when the incidence of cavities skyrockets- mostly due to unhealthy dental habits. Part of this has to do with the fact that teenagers may have gone for many years and never had a cavity. They don’t necessarily take care of their teeth because they don’t see the consequence of not. Dr. Goodwin recommends: “Habits that teenagers develop carry through into their adult years. They aren’t kids anymore, they are becoming independent. It is important to respect their independence but remind them to maintain healthy habits. Don’t let your teen’s habits become out of sight, out of mind.”