Summer is winding down. Parents and their school-aged children are starting to prepare for the upcoming school year, trying to finish back-to-school shopping. Your children may have the latest wardrobe, school supplies and sports equipment for the new school year, but the important question is, do they have a healthy mouth and the tools they will need to maintain it?

A dental examination is just as important as a booster shot and should always be included in back-to-school preparations. “Decay in children is the most widespread chronic disease of childhood, much higher than the No. 2 which is asthma,” Dr. Ian McConnachie, past president of the Ontario Dental Association said. Dental pain or disease can lead to difficulty in eating, speaking, playing and learning as well as millions of hours of missed school.

Your child’s back-to-school checklist should include:

  • Back-to-School Dental Visit. Seeing a dentist twice a year during the school-age years is vital because this is a time of great change in the mouth, with kids losing baby teeth and getting in their permanent teeth. Studies show more than 60 percent of school-age children do not see a dentist annually. Simple preventive checkups twice a year can prevent decay and can diagnose and treat dental problems to save your child pain and lost school time.
  • Establish daily brushing habits with your children. Children should brush at least twice a day. They should incorporate brushing habits into their routine by, for example, brushing their teeth as part of preparing to leave for school each day. To encourage children to brush after every meal, let them pick out their own travel toothbrush and toothpaste to take to school. Parent should buy several toothbrushes at a time so children can change their brush every three months, or to make it easier, after every school report card. Do not forget to change toothbrush after an illness.
  • Don’t forget to floss your teeth. While focusing on brushing, flossing is often neglected or forgotten. Flossing can take practice, but it’s very important if you want to maintain your oral health. Initially, especially if you have not flossed your teeth very much in the past, your gums may bleed a little and feel sore but this should pass within a few days or weeks of regular flossing. You may want to hold off on flossing until you get home from school so you don’t have sore gums while you’re out and about.
  • Encourage healthy eating habits in your children and make good nutrition a top priority. Include portable healthy lunch items and snacks in your child’s lunch bag, including grains, milk, cheese, raw vegetables, yogurt or fruit. Many school children go straight to sporting practices after school and turn to sugary foods and drinks from a vending machine when they don’t have any other option, which are disastrous to children’s oral health.
  • Ensure your child has a properly fitted mouth guard to wear when participating in organized sports, Physical Education classes or playground activities.

In all the chaos of the season, don’t forget to follow these back to school dental tips and make an appointment with your dentist for a cleaning or checkup if you haven’t been in for a while. It’s important not to neglect your health while you’re maintaining a busy life.