Many children will be returning to school in August. Parents will be helping their children prepare for the new school year with school supplies, backpacks, and new clothes. Parents will also be helping their children build good habits for a successful school year. Getting to bed early, eating healthy, having a morning schedule, and a daily dental care routine are a few habits that may have been relaxed over the summer.

According to Smile, California, in 2018, over 440,000 of California K-12 students missed school due to dental problems. Image how hard it is to participate in school with a toothache. Good dental health can help prevent cavities, prevent costly dental treatment, and prevent missed school days. Below are three ways parents and caregivers can help their children maintain good dental health.

  1. Help your child with their daily dental care routine.

    • Brush teeth for two minutes, twice a day, morning and before bed using a soft toothbrush.
    • Use a fluoride toothpaste with the Seal of Acceptance by the American Dental Association (ADA). Children 3-6 years old, only need a pea sized amount of toothpaste.
    • Teach your child to develop proper brushing skills. Your child will need help with brushing until they are about 7 or 8 years old. Click here for steps to help your child brush their teeth.
    • Help your child floss between their teeth every day. Cleaning between teeth helps remove food and plaque where ­a toothbrush can’t reach. Click here for a tip sheet on how to properly floss.
  2. Provide your child with nutritious food choices.

    • Prepare nutritious meals that will help your child have strong teeth, healthy gums, and for growth and development. Prepare meals from the five food groups: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy products.
    • Keep a variety of healthy snacks handy. Some packaged or processed snacks are usually low in nutrients and high in sugar. Snacks such as cheese sticks, raw veggies, fresh fruit, and whole grain cereals and bread can make a healthy afterschool treat. Click here for a list of foods to keep on hand.
    • Offer healthy drinks. Beverages such as juice, soda, and sports drinks can leave behind sugar on teeth. Sugar combined with bacteria, cause cavities. Milk and water are the best choices. Milk contains calcium and vitamin D. These two nutrients help build and maintain strong bones and teeth. Water helps wash away leftover food and sugar.
  3. Schedule and keep preventive dental care visits.

    • Regular dental care visits can help detect and treat cavities or other dental problems that can cause pain, trouble concentrating, missed school days or health concerns.
    • Preventive dental services can include cleanings, sealants, and fluoride varnish. Molar sealants can protect teeth from cavities up to 80% for two years (CDC).
    • During a dental visit, the Dentist can provide you with information and guidance to help your child maintain good dental health.

Additional resources to help your child maintain good dental health throughout the school year.

  • Shopping list. Dental care products such as toothpaste and dental floss for children with the Seal of Acceptance from the ADA.
  • Be a Food Hero Cookbook. Discover 37 healthy, easy to prepare, low-cost recipes tested with adults and kids.
  • Find a Dentist. Find dental and health care services for the whole family.
  • The Magical Toothbrush. Sweet tooth Sofie has a tooth that hurts. Watch the video as she learns how to brush and floss properly, which foods and drinks to choose for strong teeth, and ways to protect her teeth from cavities.
  • Oral Health and School Readiness. Resources from Smile, California to help ensure children have good oral health for a successful school year.


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