24 FOCUS - JULY 2017 Back-to-School Oral Health Education Much to the chagrin of children everywhere, the new school year is just a month away. Parents can take advantage of this time to book an appointment for their children to have a complete exam and cleaning to make sure everything is in perfect order before the busy school season starts. The discomfort of tooth decay can impact a child’s self-esteem, along with their ability to focus and learn, and is reportedly one of the leading causes of absences from school. A dental exam can uncover problems that might go undetected, as tooth decay often doesn’t present symptoms in the early stages. Teach your children good oral health habits. Help prevent tooth decay and send your kids to school with healthy mouths. By making oral health care part of a back-to-school routine, you will help teach your children about healthy habits that will last them a lifetime. Here is a checklist to assist parents in optimizing their children’s oral health as they start the new school year: • Schedule regular dental exams for the whole year. • When shopping for school supplies and new clothes, look for a new toothbrush as well. A child’s toothbrush should be changed every three months or immediately after an illness. • Make sure your child brushes at least twice a day and flosses daily. Children are wonderful imitators. To encourage healthy habits, let your child watch you brush and floss your teeth as often as possible – there’s nothing like a parent’s example to teach them healthy dental practices. • Prepare healthy and nutritious lunches including fruits, vegetables and cheeses for snacks. Avoid soft, sticky sweets that get stuck in your child’s teeth or stay in the child’s mouth for a long time, such as raisins, caramels and lollipops. Save sweets for mealtimes rather than between meals, as the amount of saliva produced at mealtimes will help protect your child’s teeth. • Educate your kids on the importance of oral health. • Mouthguards not only protect a child’s teeth, they may also prevent concussions and other serious injuries to the head and jaw. Remember to either purchase a mouthguard for each child or discuss this with your dentist. Mouthguards should be used even for non-contact sports, such as gymnastics and volleyball.