Back to School Means It's Time for a Dental Checkup

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.

For more information about dental health, visit ADA.org.

© 2017 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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What To Expect During a DENTAL VISIT

On your first visit, your dentist will take a full health history. On follow-up visits, if your health status has changed, make sure to tell your dentist. Here’s what you can expect during most trips to the dentist.

  • A Thorough Ceaning – a dental hygienist or dentist will scrape along and below the gum line to remove built-up plaque and tartar that can cause gum disease, cavities, bad breath and other problems. Then he or she will polish and floss your teeth.

  • A Full Dental Examination – your dentist will perform a thorough examination of your teeth, gums and mouth, looking for signs of disease or other problems.

  • X-Rays – X-rays can diagnose problems otherwise unnoticed, such as damage to jawbones, impacted teeth, abscesses, cysts or tumors, and decay between the teeth.