Kids' Healthy Dental Habits Begin at Home

Returning to school may present dental challenges for children

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Youngsters returning to school from the summer face challenges in proper oral health, including maintaining good lunch habits, protecting their teeth in sports and flossing.

According to the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), parents and teachers play an important part in helping kids develop and improve proper oral hygiene and good nutrition, and the beginning of a child’s school year is a good time to reinforce positive oral health habits and set up a good brushing routine.

"Speak with a dentist immediately if your child has dental pain."

Stephen Mitchell, DMD, director of Predoctoral Pediatric Dentistry at UAB’s School of Dentistry, said in an Aug. 11 press release that parents are instrumental in helping their children develop good dental hygiene. 

When children return to school, many parents and kids begin a daily routine, which, according to Dr. Mitchell, is a perfect opportunity for kids to get into a daily tooth-brushing routine — every morning and at night before bedtime.

Parents should actively supervise and help children under the age of 12 develop proper brushing habits so they go to bed at night with clean mouths, Dr. Mitchell said.

Dr. Mitchell indicated that parents should take the lead in the dental health challenges that come with going back to school.

Parents should consider sending their kids to school with flavored water and 2 percent milk instead of chocolate milk or fruit juices, which are often high in calories and sugar, Dr. Mitchell noted.

For children who play high-impact sports, such as football, karate, basketball and soccer, parents should consider purchasing a mouth guard in order to protect teeth from possible damage.

Dr. Mitchell said that one good flossing per day should be plenty.

"If your child's teeth do not touch a neighboring tooth, the toothbrush will clean them very well; but if they touch their neighbor, you will need to floss," he said. “Three brushings a day helps with fresh breath, but does not do more for tooth health than two good brushings."

However, when it comes to proper brushing and flossing, while children without braces can brush twice a day, kids with braces should also brush a third time, after lunch.

A child's teacher and school administrators should also try to reinforce positive oral health habits by instructing children on the basics of good nutrition, Dr. Mitchell said. Avoiding processed sugars benefits not only kids' teeth, but their overall health.

Past studies have shown that children who have a tooth ache or other dental pain don't perform well in the classroom, Dr. Mitchell said.

“And, honestly, who could focus and pay attention with a throbbing tooth?” he said.

Teachers and administrators who notice children with tooth decay or other oral issues should reach out to the parents so they can seek medical help for their child as soon as possible, Dr. Mitchell stated.

Review Date: 
August 12, 2014
Last Updated:
August 15, 2014