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Back-to-School Checkups: Don’t Skip the Dentist!

You’ve booked the back-to-school physical, and the school clothes have been bought. Don’t forget about your children’s teeth! It may be tempting to skip their summer dental appointment because you’re trying to squeeze every last bit of summer fun in before school starts. But, every bit as important as a yearly physical, a back-to-school cleaning is a great way to kick off the school year. Plus, many schools require a dentist’s signature verifying your child has a clean bill of dental health.

Scheduling a visit before the start of the school year saves time rushing around before or after school, and your child won’t miss anything as classes begin. It’s estimated that children miss more than 50 million hours of school each year due to dental visits. Cavities are the most common chronic childhood disease, and early detection is key to simple treatment.

Tips for a Great Checkup (For You and Your Child)

  • Plan a Visit When Your Child Is Freshest: Schedule appointments when your little one is most cooperative and alert. For some, this might be after a nap or first thing in the morning. If your child gets cranky when they’re hungry, try an appointment right after breakfast. If your child has a short attention span, try the first appointment in the morning or right after lunch when there’s less chance of a delay.

  • Let One Child Lead by Example: If you’ve booked your children’s appointments back-to-back, let the child with the most positive dental experiences go first so they can be an example to the other child/children. Be sure to bring toys or a tablet and headphones to keep your child occupied when they aren’t in the dental chair.

  • Don’t Pass on Your Phobia: If you have a dental phobia, try not to let your kids see you sweat. Children are very perceptive, and if they see you cringe the second the instruments come out, they’re going to associate the dentist with being a scary place before they even open their mouth. Smaller children lack the verbal skills to communicate clearly, so they become masters at interpreting visual cues and body language. Try to breathe calmly and avoid language that might scare or intimidate a child, like the words pain and hurt or threatening to hold them down if they don’t sit still. Remember that positive experiences as a child are the building blocks for how they will look at the dentist as they grow up. Keep it light and fun, and they’ll look forward to each visit.

  • dentist-and-patient

  • Bring Their Dental Appliances: If your child has a sports guard, retainer or sleep apnea appliance, bring it with you. Growth spurts and loss of baby teeth alter the way these appliances fit and now is the perfect time to have them evaluated.

  • Keep the Office Number Handy: Emergencies happen. Make sure their number is in your phone and remember to take a few of the office’s business cards with you and put one in your child’s backpack. Leave one with the school office, nurse, or team coach. That way if an emergency happens, each department has any contact information handy should they need it.

  • Get Into the Groove: As summer winds down and bedtime routines start to get back into the swing, now is the best time to re-establish good at-home hygiene habits. Brushing before school and before bed for two minutes combined with daily flossing can help your child stay healthy between dental visits.

The back-to-school rush can get hectic, and it’s tempting to forgo your child’s cleaning and exam, especially if they don’t complain of pain or exhibit any signs of cavities or other dental problems. But a child’s oral health affects their whole body and making sure they start the school year with a healthy smile can save time out of school and prevent emergencies that are no day at the beach.