Among the crayons, scissors and paste, be sure to include oral health basics for your child as you prepare for the new school year. Nutrition and its impact on oral health and mouth injury from sports are important issues to consider when preparing your child to return to school.
And advises Dr. Billie Sue Kyger, president-elect of the Ohio Dental Association, parents should be aware that what their child eats and drinks during the school day - and the activities he or she is involved in - can damage the teeth. "Preparing for the new school year is a perfect time for parents to be aware of the oral health issues their children face, from packing a healthy lunch for their child to ensuring they wear protective mouthguards in school supervised sports events and home activities."
Kyger provides the following tips for parents of elementary school students:
* Give your child water or milk to drink in the lunchbox. If packing bottled water, a fluoridated brand is best.
* Avoid packing sticky fruits such as raisins or chewy candies, since children most likely will not brush their teeth after eating at school. Such foods tend to stick to the teeth for a longer time and can promote cavity development.
* Have your child chew sugar-free gum during the lunch period when finished eating; chewing sugar-free gum after a meal helps neutralize the sugars and acid from the food and can help decrease the potential for decay.
The same recommendations apply to middle and high school youth, with the following additional advice from Kyger:
* Discourage the consumption of soda pop or other high-sugar, high-acid drinks that are sold in school vending areas.
Watch your mouth
Students of all ages who are participating in any school sports should be encouraged to wear a mouthguard during practice and play. Teeth most susceptible to injury, Kyger states, are the two top front teeth. Oral trauma such as a chipped or knocked out tooth can happen in virtually any sport - and Kyger said, dentists are seeing kids who have injured themselves not only on a playing field, but in an activity such as jumping on a trampoline. Even more severe injury such as a concussion can be lessened or prevented by wearing a properly fitted mouthguard. Kyger encourages parents to check with their child's dentist to determine the best source of mouth protection. Some schools have arrangements with a team dentist who provides properly fitted mouthguards to student athletes; check with the athletic department or a coach at your school.
The Ohio Dental Association serves 5,400 members in Ohio - approximately 80 percent of Ohio's practicing dentists. For information on public service programs, oral health issues, and dentistry in Ohio, visit www.oda.org.