Dental Health For Schoolchildren: 5 Tips for Parents

Posted on 09/08/2021

Dental-health-for-schoolchildren-blog-imageAs many schools have reopened for on-site classes, parents once again need to think about their children's dental health and wellness in this environment. From vending machines that stock tooth-decaying products to injuries that might happen during play, you want to know how to help protect your children's teeth.

You'll feel more confident about your children's dental health once you understand what dental issues to watch out for now that they've returned to school. Take the following five strategies to heart.

1. Warn Your Kids About School Vending Machines

Kids may love school vending machines, but the contents of those vending machines can prove hostile to kids' teeth. Many school vending machines feature snacks and sodas loaded with sugar. Sugar creates a breeding ground for the bacteria that cause tooth decay. Acids in sodas can also damage tooth enamel.

Fortunately, some schools understand this problem and make sure their vending machines provide healthier options, including milk, apples, and oranges. You or your pediatric dentist should talk to your kids about which selections may either help or hurt their teeth.

Even when kids understand what they should eat, a growling stomach may still lead them astray. You can reduce a child's urge to snack on the wrong things at school with a hearty, tooth-healthy breakfast at home. Apples, pears, nuts, yogurt, milk, eggs, and low-sugar, whole-grain cereals make smart breakfast choices.

2. Give Your Kids Tasty Lunches That Support Dental Health

In addition to steering your school-age kids through a tooth-healthy breakfast and smart snack choices, you'll want to pack a lunch that supports dental health instead of undermining it. The two main issues to address include entrees loaded with sugar and sticky substances that may cling to teeth and promote cavities.

You may find that you need to make only minor adjustments to your children's school lunch menus to create tooth-healthy meals that they'll actually enjoy. For example, you can replace starchy white bread with healthier whole-grain bread in sandwiches. Look for low-sugar jelly and peanut butter, or serve cheese sandwiches instead.

The addition of healthy, low-sugar, high-fiber sides to your children's lunch bags will round out the meal nicely, making vending machines less of a temptation later in the day. Simply throw in some raw carrots, celery sticks, apple slices, or nuts, along with bottled water or milk as a beverage.

3. Make Sure Busy Students Maintain Home Dental Hygiene

Students of all ages experience a variety of pressures, distractions, and obligations throughout the school year. For instance, your kids may pursue extracurricular activities, have regular tutoring sessions, face a mountain of homework every night, or spend late-night hours studying for important exams.

All these extra tasks can preoccupy kids to the extent that they short-change their dental hygiene routine. They may spend less time brushing, floss less carefully, or even neglect these critical cavity-preventing chores altogether. These slips can result in unhappy dental checkups.

Keep an eye on your kids' dental hygiene habits during the school year and note any changes that might indicate sloppiness on their part. Schedule specific times for brushing and flossing if necessary. Appeal to image-conscious teens by reminding them of the attractiveness of a healthy smile and pleasant breath.

4. Schedule a Back-to-School Dental Checkup

Not every school makes a back-to-school dental exam a requirement, but many do. Either way, this preventative checkup makes good sense for kids embarking on a new school year or returning from a break. Prompt treatment of any dental issues at this stage can help prevent more time-consuming treatment later.

Common preventative steps in a back-to-school dental exam include X-rays to check for hidden tooth problems, an inspection of the teeth and gums, and thorough cleanings to remove built-up plaque and tartar. Ask your pediatric dentist whether your child might also benefit from sealants that protect tooth enamel.

5. Know How to Respond to Dental Injuries

Despite all efforts to preserve children's health, accidents can still happen at school. Some of those accidents can involve acute damage to teeth. An errant baseball pitch, fall, or other incident can fracture a tooth or even knock it out of its socket. Although school nurses know how to deal with acute injuries, so should parents.

If your child has lost a tooth, come to school as soon as possible and discuss the situation with the school nurse. Apply ice to the face and have your child bite down on sterile gauze to slow oral bleeding until you can get to the dentist. If the nurse has preserved a knocked-out tooth, bring it to the dentist immediately.

Dentistry for Children & Adolescents stands ready to help your kids get the most out of their school experience while maintaining stronger, healthier teeth. Contact our office today to schedule a back-to-school exam or get answers to any questions you may have.