Sadly, the shorter daylight hours and cooler northern winds sweeping our valley signal that summer is coming to an end. This means that our children will be heading back to school and getting back into routine. For most families, this means a more structured bedtime, less beach visits and making calls to the family doctor and dentist for routine check-ups.
Health Canada reports that 45% of kids between the ages of 6 and 11 have had to miss school because of dental problems. As dentists, we encourage parents to have their children get their teeth examined regularly by a dentist. Just because a child does not complain that his or her teeth hurt, does not mean that everything is healthy in the mouth. Often, tooth decay will not cause any pain until it is fairly advanced and close to the dental pulp (nerve and blood vessels of a tooth).
School age children are in the phase of their mouth development when baby teeth co-exist with adult teeth. A dentist will examine this situation and make sure that this is proceeding properly, in the correct sequence, and that there is enough space for the incoming adult teeth.
Dental problems will interfere with a child's concentration in school and ability to enjoy extra-curricular activities. It is important to maintain a healthy mouth so that children can focus on what is important- playing and learning.
Here are some tips parents to get your children back into a routine:
Children must brush their teeth at least twice a day, once in the morning and once right before bedtime. They should also be encouraged to floss regularly in order to clean the areas in between the teeth that toothbrushes cannot access.
Toothbrushes should be replaced every three months or after an illness.
Try to decrease the amount of sugar in your child's diet. Replace sugar filled or high carbohydrate snacks with healthy options such as veggie sticks or nuts. Replace juices and sodas with milk or water. High exposure to sugar is a leading cause of tooth decay.
Observe your children while they brush and ensure that they are doing a proper job. Time them or buy them a timer and make sure that they are covering all surfaces. A thorough brushing session should take two minutes.
As a family dentist, I encourage parents to make a dental appointment for their children to help ensure a healthy mouth and a healthy, happy child.