The 2022 school year is just around the corner, and there’s no better way to go back to school than with a beautiful smile of healthy teeth. But the shift from summer vacation to the school year also means changing daily routines, like when to wake up, go to bed, do homework, and eat meals. Ensure your child successfully adjusts their dental hygiene habits to reflect their new daily routine during the school year.
Bright smiles and healthy teeth result from practicing good dental habits regularly. Your child’s dental health as an adult depends on the habits they form right now. And there is no better time to instill healthy habits than at a time of change, such as the beginning of the school year. Help your child build the foundation for a lifetime of good oral health by working on a five-step daily routine:
The back-to-school transition can be a tough one, especially in the mornings. Your child’s morning becomes a frantic scramble to dress, bathe, eat, and make it to the bus on time. And somewhere in there, they are supposed to brush their teeth. Even though it might seem like trying to fit ten pounds of beans into a five-pound can, your child’s morning bushing routine is the most influential factor in their short and long-term dental health.
Your child should practice their dental hygiene routine immediately following breakfast. This can mean a change for many children who are used to brushing first and eating breakfast at the end of their daily routine. You can encourage this adjustment by having breakfast ready when they wake up for school each day or preparing a reheatable breakfast the night before.
After eating breakfast, your child should follow a three-step dental hygiene routine:
Before your child brushes their teeth, they should floss. If you brush before flossing, the bristles can’t scrub between your teeth where plaque collects. So, the first step in your child’s morning routine is to floss between each tooth. Simply tell them the time-tested dental joke, “you don’t have to floss every tooth. Only the ones you want to keep.”
After flossing, some children prefer to rinse their mouths before brushing. If so, only rinse with water. Mouthwash contains an ingredient that temporarily makes tooth enamel vulnerable to abrasion. So, only use water to rinse after flossing.
The correct technique for brushing teeth is to hold the brush at a 45-degree angle to the teeth and scrub in a circular motion. The bristles should clean atop the surface of the teeth and gums. Scrub the outer surface of each tooth on the upper and lower jaw for five to ten seconds, then repeat on the inner surface of the teeth and gums. Repeat on the tops and bottoms of teeth, but scrub side-to-side and across since the surfaces are too small to scrub in circles. Scrub the tongue in a downward motion to remove bad-breath-causing bacteria.
Do not let your child rinse their mouth with mouthwash containing alcohol. Many antiseptic mouthwash products are detrimental to the healthy bacterium in the mouth, so use a fluoridated, alcohol-free mouthwash. Swish the mouthwash for at least 30-seconds before spitting it out. Avoid eating or drinking for at least a half-hour after rinsing to get the most benefit from the fluoride.
Help your child create a daily routine that includes following the above steps. It might seem like a lot to implement, but a child’s morning routine is critical to their overall dental health. Habits are hard to establish and hard to break, so the sooner your child learns to take care of their dental health daily, the better for creating a life-long healthy smile.
During your child’s seven or eight-hour school day, they have at least one meal and several snacks. Wouldn’t it be great if your child’s school encouraged good oral hygiene throughout the day by providing breaks to brush and floss their teeth every time, they have a snack break? Well, they don’t, and most children, adolescents, and teenagers don’t carry an oral hygiene kit at school. So, it’s your job to be preemptive and preventative by supplying your child with healthy snacks that won’t cause harm to their teeth.
Some snacks are destructive to your teeth, while others can clean your teeth and provide healthy energy. Apples, celery, and carrots are dentist-approved snacks that help to remove plaque and encourage fresher breath. Strawberries and pineapple are healthy and sweet snacks that, in small quantities, are a great energy boost for children throughout the school day. Avoid highly processed snacks containing refined sugar, cane sugar, or high fructose corn syrup. Sugar is the primary instigator of plaque buildup and tartar that leads to gum disease and tooth decay.
Your child’s school probably offers a wide range of drinks from which to choose at meals and snack time, but there is one that they should choose: water. Water encourages saliva creation that washes away cavity-causing debris and plaque. Saliva is essential for removing plaque and food debris that causes bad breath and cavities. Surgery drinks and dairy increase the amount of plaque, but water does the opposite. If milk is an option, stick to white milk, and avoid chocolate and strawberry milk. Be sure your child understands the value of hydration and that sports drinks are not a substitute for water.
Upon returning home from school and after-school activities, children are often hungry and might crave something sweet. If you want to make an exception to let your child have a sweet treat, the best time is soon after they return from school. The best practice is to extend the same rules to snacking in the kitchen as exists during the school day. Help instill good habits by encouraging them to brush and rinse after they finish their surgery snack.
Before going to bed, children should brush their teeth and rinse. Flossing is encouraged but not necessary if they floss in the morning. Follow the same brushing technique outlined for the morning to ensure plaque and food debris from the day are removed before sleep.
Support good dental habits, like avoiding surgery snacks and getting seven to nine hours of sleep. The beginning of the school year means adjusting wake-up time, bedtime, mealtime, and time to practice good dental hygiene. Help your child successfully adapt their daily routine to include time for everything that demands their attention, which includes their dental health.
Their daily dental hygiene routine shapes your child’s dental health, but there is no substitute for regular visits to your dentists. Your child should see their dentist at least once every six months for an exam and dental cleaning. And ask your dentist about fluoride treatments and other ways to improve your child’s oral health. Call our office to schedule a dental consultation for your child’s kickoff to the 2022 school year.
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