Whether it’s with a shout of glee, sigh of relief, or murmur of dread, the back-to-school countdown has begun. That means a lot of preparation in getting back on track with a good sleep schedule, gathering school supplies, and updating the old wardrobe. Not that you need anything else to check off, but one important task often gets overlooked in creating your back to school list – checking up on your dental health.
Regular and routine oral health visits are of vital importance for all school-aged children, especially those in need of extra care and attention because they’re undergoing orthodontic treatment. We’d like to make sure your child starts the school year off right and keeps that healthy smile all year long.
We’ve created this handy orthodontic survival guide for your 2019-2020 school year.
Ready. Set. Go.
1. 2+2 = Healthy Teeth
Kids often only think of teeth brushing when it comes to bad breath, not so much for routine good oral care.
Use the 2+2 equation to help kids remember the importance of teeth brushing at least once in the morning and once before bed. Each brushing should last at least two minutes.
Bedtime brushings are particularly important to remove bacteria so that it doesn’t sit undisturbed through the night, which raises the risk of tooth decay.
Of course, more frequent brushing to include after meals and snacks is best to help keep food from collecting around dental braces, which can stain and decay teeth. But, the 2+2 rule will help keep kids in the safe zone of good oral hygiene practices, especially when combined with daily flossing to keep gums healthy.
2. Keep Your Regular Dental and Orthodontic Visits
We know that the school year is a busy time between academics, extracurricular activities, sports, and so forth, but all of these are a moot point if you miss future dates because you’ve developed a serious dental ailment due to neglecting professional dental care.
Children should see a pediatric or general dentist at least twice per year. This is when the dentist will check for cavities and signs of gum disease, your teeth will be cleaned, and the dental staff will reinforce good oral hygiene techniques.
Because braces can make the teeth and gums more susceptible to problems, these appointments are particularly important for braces wearers.
In addition to dental appointments, busy schedules shouldn’t delay or prevent your child from keeping their routine orthodontist appointments, too. Skipping appointments can cause serious and costly delays in your treatment.
3. Include a Braces Care Kit on Your Back to School Supply List
Having a braces care kit enables your child to clean their teeth anywhere, anytime and remedy common issues that arise from wearing braces. It’s super easy to build your own, and the kids can conveniently keep the kit in their school locker or backpack for easy access after snacks and meals. Make sure your kit includes:
• Toothbrush and toothpaste (travel sizes are easier to manage)
• Floss, floss picks, and/or floss threaders
• Compact mirror
• Mouthguard, if needed
• Elastics, if worn
4. Access to Water
It’s okay to have an occasional juice or sports drink, but the primary hydration source should always be water. Why?
Water helps rinse away stray food particles in the mouth and trapped near braces. It also neutralizes harmful bacteria in the mouth. Sugary drinks, however, may help rinse stray food away, but it leaves the sugar around to sit on teeth, which can cause decay and gives bacteria a food source.
Always send your child to school with at least one bottle of water. You can freeze it the night before. By lunchtime, it will be thawed but still icy cold.
5. Focus on Nutrition
School lunches are designed to be nutritionally sound, but not all kids will like all things served, and many school cafeterias only have one to two options in each food category.
Go over the lunch menu, which should be posted on your school’s website or Facebook page, each week with your child. Pack a healthy lunch on days they don’t care for their options.
Do be sure to stay away from corn on the cob, nuts, jerky, hard fruits and veggies in the raw state, and anything else hard or sticky. These can damage the braces, lead to costly and time-consuming repairs, and even delay treatment.
Of course, if your child happens to just love a no-go food with braces, there are ways to make most choices safe to eat. Apples can be cubed or sliced, corn can be cut from the cob, nut butters and chopped nuts are fine, and veggies and fruits can always be steamed to a softer consistency.
The same goes for healthy snacks, too. Vending machines typically don’t have a lot of teeth-friendly options. So, you may want to plan ahead and pack accordingly.
6. Safety First
If your child is involved in athletics or any contact activity, make safety first a rule. This includes an orthodontist-approved, fitted mouthguard to protect your child’s orthodontic devices, teeth, lips, jaws, tongue, and gums. Contact your orthodontist to determine if an activity requires a mouthguard and what type he/she recommends.
Have a Happy and Healthy School Year!
We’d like to wish all our patients a happy 2019-2020 school year and hope the above orthodontic survival guide helps make your first year wearing braces to school a breeze. If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to search for an Orthodontic specialist near you using the Texas Orthodontic Association website (www.texasortho.org) .