The Importance of Back to School Dental Check-ups

Getting ready to go back to school can be a hectic time. It is best to do a little planning ahead so that the school year begins smoothly. This not only means getting the proper school supplies, it also involves making sure your child is in good health. One key to avoiding setbacks during the academic year is to begin school with a healthy smile! A dental check-up before classes begin diminishes the likelihood of a child not being able to concentrate on their schoolwork, or missing days due to the discomfort of a dental problem.

Picture1A dental exam before the start of the school year is so important that many states have mandated periodic evaluations as a condition of school entry. According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research Dental tooth decay is the single most common chronic childhood disease. Over 50 percent of 5 to 9 year old children have at least one cavity or filling, with that proportion increasing to 78 percent among 17-year-olds. Additionally, more than 51 million school hours are lost each year to dental-related illness.

Although the statistics indicate a high incidence of dental decay in children, helping your child avoid developing cavities is as simple as making an appointment for a routine dental exam. As prevalent as tooth decay is, it is also highly preventable and can be easily treated before any larger problems develop. While dental check-ups and professional cleanings at regular intervals are important for everyone to maintain a healthy and beautiful smile, it is especially essential for children. Changes in diet or oral habits, unfavorable jaw growth or development, and trauma to the oral cavity in children can rapidly alter the state of their smile.

Good dental routines established in youngsters provide a strong foundation for maintaining oral health over the course of a lifetime. When oral healthcare begins at an early age and continues on a regular basis the dentist can follow your child’s dental growth and development, provide preventative care, and effectively treat the initial stages of the vast majority of problems. Furthermore, early training in the fundamentals of proper oral hygiene techniques and dietary habits benefit not only a child’s smile, it improves their overall health and sense of well-being.

With regular dental check-ups your child will become more and more comfortable in the dental office. At each periodic exam the dentist will go over the child’s medical and dental history, examine their teeth and all of the surrounding soft tissues, as well as check their bite and jaw alignment. Dental x-rays may be taken to check for tooth decay, infection, or to evaluate developing teeth and underlying bone. The dentist or dental hygienist will then do a professional dental cleaning to eliminate any plaque or debris that has accumulated between the teeth or in hard to reach places. A topical fluoride treatment is oftentimes performed after the cleaning. This serves to strengthen the teeth by re-mineralizing the small imperfections in the tooth enamel. Topical fluoride is a safe and effective way to combat tooth decay.

Picture2When a child’s permanent molars and premolars come into place, the dentist will also recommend the placement of dental sealants. This procedure involves the application of very thin plastic coating to the chewing surfaces of the permanent back teeth. Sealants act to protect the vulnerable areas of these teeth from the bacteria and acids that cause decay. Dental sealants are quite strong and can last for several years, never the less the dentist will evaluate them at dental check-up visits to make sure that they are intact and reapply as needed.
It is a good idea at the back to school exam to inform the dentist which athletic teams or sports activities your child will be joining in the coming year. Sports accidents account for a high percentage of dental injuries in school age children. Although sports related injuries are unavoidable, some can be prevented. Studies have demonstrated that wearing a mouthguard significantly lowers the incidence as well as the severity of trauma to the teeth and mouth area. Based on your child’s dental development, the dentist will advise you which mouthguard is most suitable and will fabricate a custom mouthguard as needed.

A new school year brings new routines and its own set of unique challenges for a child. This is why it is so important that the transition back to school be as healthy as possible. Taking the time before classes begin to make sure your child’s smile is in tiptop shape helps them to put their best foot forward for a successful year.

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