For many children, the month of August marks the beginning of a new school year. As parents and caregivers help their child prepare for a successful academic year, it is important to ensure their child’s oral health is a top priority. A child’s oral health can affect their school performance.

According to the University of Southern California-Health News, children who reported having tooth pain were four (4) times more likely to have a low grade-point average when compared to children without oral pain. Tooth pain also seemed to cause more school absences for children and more missed work for parents.

Good oral health can help a child focus on their schoolwork and can help lower school absences related to dental pain. It can also help a child with their nutrition, speech, and sleep, which are essential for academic success.

Start the school year with good oral health.

Follow the oral care recommendations below to prevent dental problems that can affect your child’s school performance and school attendance.

Oral care supplies.

Oral care items in good condition can help remove food particles and dental plaque easier and efficiently.

  • New toothbrush. Select a toothbrush (manual or electric) with soft bristles and a small head. This will help gently clean the tooth enamel and reach the back molars. Remember to replace the toothbrush every three months.
  • Fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride helps fight cavities. It helps make the tooth enamel stronger and more resistant to cavities.
  • Dental floss. There are different types of flossing aids such as thread floss (most common), floss picks, and a water flosser. Talk to your child’s dentist about the proper flossing aid for your child.

Dental care techniques.

Many dental providers recommend helping or supervising your child until he or she has developed good brushing and flossing skills, around 7 or 8 years old. Your child’s dentist can provide you with the proper oral care guidance for your child’s age. Below are dental care techniques from the American Dental Association (ADA).

  • Brush teeth twice (2) a day, for two (2) minutes. Place a pea-size amount of fluoride toothpaste on the bristles and angle the toothbrush at 45 degrees towards the gumline. Brush the inner, outer, and chewing surfaces of each tooth gently, using small circular motions. It is best to brush before bed.
  • Floss at least once a day. Start with about 18 inches of floss and wind most of it around each middle finger. Hold it tightly between your thumbs and forefingers, leaving an inch or two of floss to work with. Gently move the floss in between the teeth in an up and down motion and curve it around the base of each tooth, making sure you go just beneath the gumline. Never snap the floss into the gums. Click here to watch a short video on how to properly floss.

Oral care routine.

Helping a child start and stick to their oral care routine may be a challenge. A little creativity and motivation may help a child brush and floss daily. Be patient and teach your child the importance of good oral care habits. Here are some ideas from the ADA that can help encourage your child to brush and floss.

  • Brush to the beat. Try music while your child brushes. Choose tunes they enjoy. Music videos and brushing apps can be great, too.
  • Offer simple rewards. Stickers, books, or extra play time can encourage positive oral care behaviors.
  • Praise your child. A simple gesture such as a pat on the shoulder or a verbal praise and a smile can mean a lot to a child.
  • Lead by example. Your child may adopt good dental care habits by watching you take care of your own oral health.

Dental visits.

Dental checkups are an essential part of a child’s oral care. A child with a healthy smile is ready for school.

  • Six-month check-ups. Routine dental exams allow a dentist to find and treat any dental concerns, such as cavities in their early stages before they can cause pain and infections that can affect a child’s nutrition, speech, and overall health.
  • Oral health screening. An oral health screening is required before starting kindergarten or first grade. Ask your dental provider or school about the dental screening.

Related resources.


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