Getting health check-ups, including dental screenings or exams also should top the list.
Tooth decay can be painful if left untreated, and painful teeth will affect a child’s performance in school. I encourage families to call 502-852-SMILE (7645) to take part in UofL’s free back-to-school promotion, where a dental provider will look in the child’s mouth for signs of decay. For kids entering kindergarten, a form will be sent home that can be turned in to the school, per Kentucky law for school entry.
It is important for parents to brush the teeth of their children twice a day until the child is 8-years-old – hopefully by age eight, a child will have the skills necessary to thoroughly brush on their own. A parent also should help a child floss beginning no later than age 3, when the spaces between teeth start to close.
In addition to screenings, families may choose a full dental exam for their child. This includes X-rays, a cleaning, fluoride treatment and a thorough look through the mouth. For children experiencing extreme decay, the school also offers Silver Diamine Flouride, a 58-percent solution that stops decay in its tracks.
But prevention is really the key to a healthy smile. I encourage parents to find a dental home for their children beginning at age one, when teeth begin to erupt. You should also consider sealants for children between ages 6 and 10. Sealants go into the deep grooves of molars, the areas where cavities are likely to form. They can last several years, and are ideal for decay prevention.
A healthy diet means healthy teeth, new juice guidelines
Most parents know that proper nutrition leads to healthy bodies. Eating sticky candies such as “gummies” can lead to a higher incidence of cavities. Allowing children to drink anything other than water in a sippy cup, also can be problematic. The pH balance of the mouth is disturbed when a child is allowed to drink juice all day, for example. Better to drink juice or milk in one sitting rather than over the course of several hours. Parents should be also familiarize themselves with the new juice drinking guidelines released this summer by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
The new recommendations urge parents, when possible, to feed their children whole fruit rather than juice, where fiber and other nutrition can be gained. And, the Academy has reduced the quantity of school juice for children according to age:
- No juice for children younger than 12 months.
- 1-3 years – Limit fruit juice to a max. of 4 ounces per day (1/2 cup)
- 4-6 years – No more than 4-6 ounces (1/2 cup – ¾ cup)
- 7-18 years – Limit juice to 8 ounces per day (1 cup)
*In addition to free back-to-school screenings, the school also is offering free orthodontic consultations, and a $250 credit toward the cost of braces for treatment that begins within six weeks of the initial visit for children/youth to age 21. Learn more at uofl.me/yourdentalhome.
For more information on preparing your children for the school year, click here.