Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Dental Check-up Should be a Back-to-School Basic

Backpack. Check. Pens and pencils. Check. Organizers and notebooks. Check. You’ve gotten your child everything they may need to be back at school, but there may be a very important item missing from your back-to-school check list: your child’s dental check-up.

Dental caries, also known as tooth decay, is the most common chronic childhood disease, five times more common than asthma. It’s also completely preventable with proper care. Good oral health is an important part of a child’s overall well being, especially as they and their teeth are developing.

Dental check-ups are crucial to identify risks and help prevent more serious problems from occurring such as tooth decay and gum disease. Dentists can even identify early signs of other diseases like diabetes and vitamin deficiencies. However, without regular dental screenings and prevention measures like sealants on molars, dental disease often goes untreated and can result in cavities, pain and infection. Untreated dental disease can also interfere with learning, speech, and eating, leading to poor nutrition and problems in school.

You can also help your child protect their teeth throughout the school year with a few simple tips:
  • Sugar and acid in soda and sports drinks can eat away tooth’s enamel: if your children are drinking these, send them to school with a straw so the liquid will have less contact with their teeth.
  • Most bottled water doesn’t have tooth decay fighting fluoride: you can save money by skipping the bottled water and having your child drink water from the tap using a tap filter or a filtered pitcher.
  • Chewing gum doesn’t have to be bad for your child’s teeth. Always use sugarless gum and look for chewing gum with xylitol, the natural sweetener that has been proven to help prevent tooth decay, listed as one of the top three ingredients.
  • If your child participates in a school sport, make sure he/she wears a mouth guard. According to the American Dental Association, sports-related injuries knock out two million teeth per year. Your child will be 60 times less likely to suffer tooth damage than an athlete without a mouth guard. (Mouth guards are rarely covered by insurance plans because of the wide variation in cost between custom, mouth-formed and stock ones -- any mouth guard is better than none.)
Most importantly, schedule an appointment with your child’s dentist. Start a positive tradition that will hopefully last them their entire lives. Your child should walk away with a new toothbrush, a sticker and a brighter smile. You will walk away with peace of mind, knowing you have a full picture of your child’s overall health and that your son or daughter is truly ready to for this new school year.