About 16.9 percent of children aged five to 19 in the United States have untreated tooth decay. This is according to data collected from 2013 to 2016 by the National Center for Health Statistics. For children, consistent exposure to and familiarity with dental care early on in life is the key to superb oral health long-term. With that in mind, we have assembled this brief guide to help parents successfully navigate their child’s basic dental needs, especially while they are in school.
Poor oral health can affect your child’s ability to learn. Many children are not able to verbalize their dental pain. Oral issues can result in increased inattention and distractibility. It may even lead to depression and decreased appetite. Teachers may mistake these for something else. If not treated, the discomfort and infection can adversely affect their ability to eat, speak, and learn. Poor oral health can negatively impact their self-esteem and academic performance. Research shows that children and teenagers with dental health problems tend to be less likely to do all their homework and have school issues (compared to those young students without dental problems.)
It matters what you pack in your child’s lunch. Your child can maintain excellent oral health with a healthy diet. Please encourage them to drink water and milk at home and school and limit their consumption of fruit juice, soda, and sports drinks. Moreover, we all know that school cafeterias may not always have the healthiest options between chicken nuggets, pizza, nachos, grilled cheese, and cookies. To provide your child with a diet low in starches and sugars, pack healthy foods like salad, sandwiches with whole-wheat bread, carrots and celery with hummus, cheese, and whole-grain crackers, nuts, yogurt, and fresh fruit. If they like buying food from the cafeteria, review healthy choices with them and discuss what options they should be avoiding.
If your child plays sports, be sure they are wearing a mouthguard. If your child plays contact sports, they should be wearing a mouthguard. A mouthguard will help protect your child’s teeth so they can play sports without worrying about chipping or losing a tooth. Mouthguards can also be a huge money saver for you because buying a mouthguard is a lot more cost-effective than paying a big emergency dental bill if something happens to your child’s teeth.
Always remember to brush. Brushing your child’s teeth twice per day is crucial in preventing tooth decay and cavities. Though baby teeth are only temporary, they allow your child to develop proper eating habits and speaking patterns and act as placeholders that guide the growth of their permanent teeth. Use a children’s toothbrush, as they feature easy-to-grip handles and small, soft-bristled bristles that make it easy to reach all of your child’s teeth. Until children are old enough to learn to spit after brushing, parents should only use a grain-of-rice-sized amount of toothpaste. For children under two years old, you could even use a wet toothbrush with no toothpaste. Children over three can use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste.
And remember, be sure to schedule your child’s routine dental checkups twice a year, including a dental cleaning. If it has been a while since your kid’s last dental appointment, be sure to schedule one today!