Never before, in our lifetimes, has our back to school season been more unusual. After the longest spring break ever, we are finally getting back into some semblance of a schedule or routine. Whether you are taking your kids back to in-person school or you have committed to virtual learning, your children now have specific tasks at specific times of the day.
Back to school isn’t just back to school. It is back to daily and weekly routines, back to bedtimes and alarm clocks, and back to good habits that may have gone by the wayside in the unusual days of Spring Break-turned-quarantine-turned-Summer. Add this important item to your list of daily activities as you get back into the swing of things: taking great care of your teeth! There are many things involved in pursuing a healthy mouth. Here are some tips to getting that oral hygiene routine back on track.
- In order to properly remove plaque (the soft, sticky substance that causes cavities and gum disease), it is necessary to brush your teeth twice a day with a soft or extra-soft bristled toothbrush.
- The most commonly missed area in brushing is at the gumline, so make sure the bristles of your toothbrush are gently touching the gums as you brush.
- Check the bristles of your toothbrush often. The American Dental Association recommends replacing toothbrushes every 3-4 months or sooner if bristles are splayed and worn (like the photo shows). A worn toothbrush cannot do a thorough job of cleaning teeth.
- Please remember: never share a toothbrush with anyone, especially your child.
- If you or your child is sick with any type of infection, replace your toothbrush or run it through your dishwasher’s “Sanitize” cycle.
- Supervise your children’s brushing. They should only be brushing their own teeth if they can tie their shoelaces or write their name in cursive. Otherwise, you should still be brushing their teeth for them.
Brushing alone cannot quite get the job done when it comes to removing all of the plaque from your teeth. The nooks and crannies between your teeth are havens for clumps of bacteria where even the best brusher is not able to reach. Flossing removes this plaque and reduces your risk for cavities and gum disease. When you skip flossing, you miss over 35% of the surface of a tooth. Studies have shown that flossing every day can add six years to your lifespan.
Because flossing is a more difficult skill to master, you should floss your children’s teeth until they show they can properly do it on their own. The easiest way to floss your child’s teeth is to sit on a bed or the floor, and have the child lay down with his head in your lap. Have the child tilt his head up so that you can look straight down into his mouth. This gives you the simplest access for flossing (also good for brushing). The earlier you start this process, the easier it is to accomplish.
Preventive Dental Care
- Professional cleanings – So let’s say you’re not a perfect brusher and flosser; no one is. We all have areas that we may miss with our toothbrush or floss. What happens when sticky, soft plaque is not removed from our teeth? In 24 hours, it begins to harden into tartar (also called calculus). Once it has hardened, you cannot clean it off with a toothbrush or floss. Only a dentist or dental hygienist can remove it with specialized teeth cleaning instruments. Tartar buildup that is not removed on a regular basis leads to painful, chronic conditions that require more extensive and more expensive dental treatment.
- Dental evaluation and x-rays – A dental evaluation by your dentist can uncover problems that are treatable in the early stages, when damage is minimal and dental treatment is less invasive. Dental x-rays show how the teeth are developing and hidden decay that develops between the teeth. X-rays also allow us to monitor the jawbones for any changes, including cancer or abnormal growths. These important steps, taken on a regular basis, can help prevent painful, chronic conditions and save money. Untreated tooth decay is a serious infectious disease for which there is no immunization.
- Fluoride application – Cavities used to be a fact of life. Over the past few decades, one thing has been responsible for a dramatic reduction in the prevalence of cavities: fluoride. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control says that water fluoridation is “one of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century”. Fluoride in your water supply is integrated into children’s teeth as they are forming, adding strength and cavity resistance to their enamel. Teeth can also be strengthened and protected with topical fluoride. Topical fluoride includes many products you may already use at home (toothpaste, mouthwash and gel), and it can be professionally applied in your dentist’s office. Your need for professional fluoride treatment should be assessed by your dentist and is based on your cavity risk level.
- Sealants – Another common area that toothbrush bristles miss is the deep pits and grooves on the biting surfaces of your back teeth. These types of cavities can be prevented by applying dental sealants over the pits and grooves. A dental sealant is a thin coating that goes on in a liquid form, flowing into the pits and grooves and then hardening to form a smooth, flat surface that prevents the accumulation of bacteria and food particles. Sealants are most effective when applied as soon as a back tooth enters the mouth.
If you missed getting in to our office this summer for your preventive care, take a look at your school calendar. School holidays are busy in our office, and those appointment times fill up quickly. Pick the next school holiday for your dental visits and call us today at 972-347-1145 to get on the books for the day you want!