Some states have gone to great lengths to ensure that children start out the school year on the right foot.
In Illinois, for example, children entering kindergarten, second and sixth grade must have a dental examination performed by a dentist before the end of the previous school year or provide proof that one is scheduled.
"Dental examinations are needed during second and sixth grades as the back teeth, or molars, usually erupt during this time," said Dr. Darryll Beard, president of the Illinois State Dental Society. "This allows your dentist the opportunity to apply dental sealants to these teeth to help prevent future decay."
The Illinois state law requires compliance from students in all public, private and parochial schools. If the child has had a recent dental examination, or one completed within the 18 months of the end of the school year, the requirement has been fulfilled.
"With the undeniable link between oral health and overall health, children will have a much better school year with less absenteeism and more confidence if dental issues are regularly addressed," said Dr. Beard.
The beginning of the school year is an appropriate time for dentists to remind parents and caregivers about some of the risks associated with tooth decay and ways to prevent it.
Decay is on the rise in some children, and many dentists believe that diet and overconsumption of soft drinks are to blame. Allowing children to sip on sugary snacks and drinks for prolonged periods of time can increase the risk of decay.
During a professional cleaning and oral exam, the dentist removes plaque bacteria from teeth to help fix early decay. Dentists can also advise parents about effective preventive measures for children's teeth, such as the use of sealants and fluoride, and brushing and flossing techniques, as well as mouthguards for any sport or activity that could result in a blow to the face or mouth.
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