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Back to School Health: A Checklist for Kids

Heading back to school in the fall can mean a lot for your child. From new classes and pages-long school supply lists to an earlier wake-up call and the anxiousness of preparing for fall sports or school play, it can be a lot! When considering how best to help your family adjust to the changes a new school year inevitably brings, you've got plenty on your mind. We're here to help you keep your child's oral health top of mind!

Back to school health is a great predictor of your child's success in a new school year. Taking a proactive approach can prevent any absences caused by discomfort, orthodontic treatment, or emergency appointments. Here are our four top suggestions for how to kick the year off to a healthy start by ensuring your child's dental hygiene success.

Scheduling a Checkup

The first order of business is a regular checkup with your child's dentist. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that children attend a checkup every six months. But your child's dentist will tell you the frequency at which you should schedule appointments based on your child's specific needs.

Scheduling an appointment before the beginning of each school year makes it easy to remember your child's checkup frequency. While most dental offices will send you a reminder to schedule an appointment, you can consider the beginning of your child's new academic year as a marker for a dental checkup too!

You can expect your child's dental professional to offer X-rays and do a thorough exam, looking for potential issues such as decay, weakened enamel, and cavities. Depending on your child's age, they may also make recommendations about wisdom teeth removal. As wisdom teeth usually erupt between 17 and 21, expect this conversation to happen when your child enters their teen years.

We recommend scheduling your child's dental checkup about a month before school starts. If your child has cavities, then his/her dentist will determine the best treatment plan. Give yourself plenty of time during the summer break to check off these "to-do's." There's no point in waiting until the school year begins, you'll be busy enough, and you won't want your child missing school for these appointments either.

Consulting With an Orthodontist

If you're concerned about how your child's teeth are coming in, it may be time to see an orthodontist. The American Association of Orthodontists suggests that kids have a consultation when they turn seven years old. By the age of seven, most kids have at least four permanent incisors and four molars. At your child's first orthodontist appointment, they may be too young for braces. But the visit can help your child's orthodontist create a personalized care plan based on the rate of growth and unique issues such as an overcrowded smile or poor bite (malocclusion). If your child does require braces, it's a good thing you scheduled this appointment over summer break, so they can get their braces before school begins!

Reassess Lunches and Snacks

During the summer, it's easy to find fresh fruits and vegetables. You probably have more energy to cook light, healthy recipes with the warm weather, late sunsets, and looser schedules. But when the school year rolls around, it's back to routine! Reassessing the lunches and snacks, you pack for your child can help you feel confident that you're feeding them the healthiest, most travel-friendly food that's available. Not only is good nutrition important for your child's oral health, but it will also help them stave off health issues like obesity. Involving your child in the meal planning process is a great way to begin a new year. Whether it's picking items out at the grocery store together, creating a garden together, or letting them place their sandwiches and snacks in their lunch sack, it will help them understand the value of making nutritious meals.

Updating Oral Hygiene Routines

You've got binders, textbooks, a new calculator and a sports uniform to purchase...but don't forget new oral care products! One more essential item on the back-to-school health checklist is a thorough audit of your child's current oral hygiene routine. After a summer of late nights, sleepovers, and loose schedules, your child's oral care routine may feel out of whack. This can result in less-than-ideal conditions for their teeth and gums.

Create a quick oral hygiene checklist with fresh supplies, like a toothbrush, floss, mouthwash, and any dental tools their dental professional recommends. Make sure they brush their teeth twice a day and clean between their teeth with floss, a water flosser, or another interdental cleaning tool of their choice. You may even want to observe your child while they brush their teeth to ensure their technique is up to snuff.

While the weeks leading up to a new school year can feel like a never-ending to-do list, know that your child's health is the most critical component of starting this new academic calendar. Being prepared for a healthy oral care routine is essential to kick things off strong. By taking the time to schedule their back-to-school dental checkup, stocking up on new oral hygiene products, and refreshing their go-to lunches and snacks, your child can head into the new year not only with an organized backpack but with a bright, healthy smile!

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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