School’s out for the summer which, for most kids and parents, means the usual schedule goes out the window. However, there is one routine that is non-negotiable for children, and that’s sticking to a proper dental health plan. Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease in children, with a British study finding that more than 60% school-age children in the U.S. have tooth decay. Fortunately, there are many things parents can do to keep their kid’s teeth healthy this summer. Follow these simple and effective tips to ensure your child’s oral health stays in top shape during the relaxed summer months.
Stick to a healthy diet plan – According to the study above, sugar is the primary cause of tooth decay. So with lots of pool parties, trips to theme parks and plenty of opportunities to dine out, summer is full of diet-destroying opportunities.
Sweet summertime favorites, like freezer pops, ice cream bars, sports drinks and fruit juices are some of the biggest cavity-causing culprits. Limit your child’s consumption of sugary treats and drinks to no more than a few times a week, and after they’ve brushed their teeth, only allow them to drink water. Liquid in sugary drinks, even ones that you may think are harmless like milk, can sit on top of teeth and promote cavities. If you do allow your child to indulge, make sure they drink lots of water and brush afterwards to get rid of any cavity-causing residue.
Make brushing fun – Summer is all about having fun, and your kid doesn’t want anything to get in the way of that, even if it’s slowing down for two minutes twice a day to brush her teeth. To promote better dental health habits, make brushing seem like it’s a part of the fun. There are plenty of colorful toothbrush options, including ones that play music, and different flavors of toothpaste that will help them look forward to that time of day. If that doesn’t work, offer incentives for practicing good brushing habits, like getting to read a bed time story or 15 minutes more of computer time before bed.
Focus on flossing – Though it’s been said before, it bears repeating: Get kids in the habit of flossing early. This is a vital step in keeping your kid’s teeth healthy long before their permanent teeth come in. Once a day, while your child is brushing, include time to floss. Show her how to hold the floss and how to pull it between the teeth. For smaller children who have trouble with floss, dental picks are a great alternative to string floss. They even come in fun shapes like dinosaurs and dolphins.
Be a role model – Children follow by example, so make sure you’re practicing what you preach. Consider brushing and flossing your teeth together with your children, and be careful to teach them proper techniques. Aggressive brushing can damage teeth and gums. Instead, use gentle tiny circles, making sure to touch every surface of the tooth.
Schedule a summertime exam. Like adults, children as young as toddler-age should have a dental checkup and cleaning at least two times a year. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends children have their first dental exam by their first birthday. Scheduling an exam during the summertime will also ensure that your child’s dental health stays on track.
With a little creativity and attention, your children can maintain the healthy oral hygiene habits they have built during the school year. Good dental habits will ensure your kids enjoy a healthy mouth for life.