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Kids' Back-to-School Dental Visit

You've tucked away your kids' bathing suits and bought new backpacks. You've sharpened their pencils and visited their doctor. But have they seen their dentist yet? A dental exam should be part of the back-to-school checklist

Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease in U.S. children, says the American Academy of Pediatrics. By the time they start kindergarten, more than 40 percent of kids have some tooth decay. Kids with toothaches have trouble focusing. They may also not want to join in class discussions.

Just because your child's teeth look OK doesn't mean that they are OK. Your kids should have checkups even when they don't have symptoms. This can prevent certain problems. It can catch other problems when they're easy to treat.

During a routine exam, the dentist will:

  • Review your child's dental and medical history

  • Examine your kid's teeth, jaws, and oral tissue

  • Clean and polish your child's teeth

  • Apply a fluoride solution

A big part of the dentist's role is to monitor children as they grow. They see where things need to improve and can give you the tools to maintain and improve your child's oral health.

Seeing the dentist isn't the only step to keeping your children's teeth healthy. These tips can help them steer clear of cavities:

  • Have kids brush their teeth at least twice a day with a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. They should brush gently and pay special attention to the gum line.

  • Kids should floss at least once a day.

  • Give your kids healthy snack foods such as fresh fruit, veggies, and cheeses.

  • Limit sugary snacks and high-carbohydrate foods. The bacteria that cause tooth decay thrive on simple sugars, especially those in sticky foods and treats.

  • Don't let them snack too often.

  • If you kids like to chew gum, offer a sugar-free option.

  • Talk with your child's dentist about whether your child should have dental sealants.

"DA Seal of Acceptance Program: Chewing Gum." American Dental Association. http://www.ada.org/1315.aspx. Accessed 2013.

"Dental Hygiene: How To Care For Your Child’s teeth." American Academy of Family Physicians. Reviewed November 2010. http://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/children/parents/kidshealthy/healthy-choice/227.html. Accessed 2013.

"Oral Health Risk Assessment Timing and Establishment of the Dental Home, Policy Statement." Pediatrics. Vol. 111, no. 5, pp. 1113-1116. http://aappolicy.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/pediatrics;111/5/1113. Accessed 2013.

"Preventive Dentistry." American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. http://digital.ipcprintservices.com/publication/?m=17248&l=1. Accessed 2013.

"Regular Dental Visits." American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. http://digital.ipcprintservices.com/publication/?m=17249&l=1. Accessed 2013.

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