According to a National Children’s Oral Health Survey, an estimated 8.6 million children in America—between the ages of 6 and 12—have missed school due to an oral health issue. This may not be all that surprising considering that 42% of children between the ages of 2 and 11 have cavities (dental caries) in their baby (primary) teeth. To help ensure a safe and healthy school year, Penn Dental Medicine has put together a few dental tips for back-to-school success. 

Five Back-to-School Dental Tips You Won’t Want to Miss

Young girl with brown hair in pigtails and sweater over her shoulder, holds apple in library, smiling.

At PDM, we frequently address questions about pediatric dentistry. Parents and caregivers routinely want to know: What is a good dental routine? How long should a 13-year-old brush their teeth? Can I avoid having to take my child to the dentist during school hours? To help answer these questions and others, and help start the school year right, take a look at the following five dental tips for back-to-school success: 

  • Be Aware of Your Communication.

Even before you schedule a back-to-school dental visit for your child, think about how you set the stage for the appointment. 

If you feel nervous about going to the dentist, chances are that your child can probably sense something. Kids pick up on parents’ anxiety, and that can be a significant factor influencing their impressions about the dentist. Especially around ages four to six, when children are forming their vision of the world, it’s important to help them have safe, positive experiences.

The younger your children are, the more aware you have to be about the way you communicate with them. Help them to feel successful at accomplishing a good visit. Link that positive feeling to the message that their teeth are strong and healthy, so they remember it when they go to the dentist in the future. “Your teeth are all set for school, great job!”

  • Get Back Into a Brushing and Flossing Routine     Diverse school-aged children in white and gray uniforms wearing backpacks run through the grass.

It’s not uncommon for children—and adults too—to become a bit lax about brushing and flossing over the summer. To ensure optimal oral hygiene, re-introduce children to more routine brushing and flossing habits a week or two before school restarting. 

Whether your child is 3 or 13, we recommend they brush for two minutes, twice daily and floss at least once per day. 

  • Encourage Healthy Eating Habits

Similar to brushing and flossing slipping through the cracks during summer break, sometimes picnics, BBQs, and vacations invite sweet and salty treats. While tasty summertime goodies like ice cream, pie, french fries, and fried chicken are okay to indulge in occasionally, they aren’t so great for your child’s teeth. 

Rather than wait until the day school starts, you can set your child up for oral health success beforehand by providing healthy meals and snacks. Remind your child how yummy crunchy apples and carrots are. And swap sugary juices and/or sodas for water. It’s also important to limit snacking between meals (when bacteria like to build on teeth!)

  • Make Older Children the Role Model 

Even if you don’t have more than one child, chances are, you have a child older than yours in your social circle. A great way to help children get used to the dentist is to make an older child a role model for younger children. 

Pick a child who has had the most positive experiences with the dentist to go first so that the others can get his/her report before they go in. This peer-to-peer strategy can be helpful for other children who are nervous. 

  •  Have Fun!   Black father embraces his son by the shoulders as he prepares to go to school. Mother and daughter in background.

Don’t get so caught up in the worry about dentists and dental care that you can’t maintain your sense of humor! Show your children your relaxed side, and they will take a fun-loving attitude towards the experience as well. 

For small children, talk to them as you brush their teeth or floss, telling them stories about their different teeth. You can also associate dental visits with fun by taking them for an outing afterward. You know your kids—they are unique in their needs, sense of humor, and personality. Be strict about keeping up a good routine, but let yourself have a little fun with it so they do, too!

Penn Dental Medicine offers discounted dental care to individuals, families, and young children. We also have dentists for college students; in fact, many of our patients visit us from nearby universities.  We hope these dental tips for back-to-school success will help you and your children get back into the rhythm of the new year and up-to-date with their dentistry needs. 
To learn more about dental care for your child at PDM, don’t forget to check out our pediatrics page or schedule an appointment.