University Of Pittsburgh School Of Dental Medicine Offers Back-To-School Tips For Healthy Teeth
PITTSBURGH, August 29, 2006 — As schools throughout the region welcome back their students this week, parents and children alike have high hopes for a healthy, productive year in the classroom. Faculty members from the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine offer advice on the following topics to help children avoid dental problems that could take a bite out of their scholastic achievements.
Boost attendance through routine dental care - Toothaches lead to school absences almost as often as colds and the flu do, but by making oral health a priority, parents can minimize the time that dental pain keeps children out of the classroom. The first step down the path to good oral health is routine dental exams. Be sure to include your child’s dentist appointment with all of the other back-to-school checkups on the schedule, and keep your child on a regular six-month schedule for dental exams thereafter. Many dentists offer early-morning or evening appointments that won’t interfere with the school day routine.
Trips to the dentist alone aren’t enough for preventing problems, however. “Good dental care begins at home,” said Deborah Studen-Pavlovich, D.M.D., chair of the dental school’s department of pediatric dentistry. “Parental monitoring is the best complement to regular dentist visits.” In addition to encouraging good hygiene habits like regular brushing and flossing, check your child’s mouth for signs of potential trouble, like a broken tooth or bleeding gums. Also be on the lookout for other signals, such as extreme temperature sensitivity or obvious pain when chewing. Early action by an observant parent can cut off minor dental problems before they become major crises.
Send your child to school with a healthy meal - When packing your child’s lunch, remember that the building blocks for strong teeth are the same as those for general health, and include low-fat milk, lean protein and fruits and vegetables. Water, preferably fluoridated, is the best beverage selection, because sodas can break down enamel and promote cavities, and even seemingly healthy juice boxes can pack in more sugar than many parents realize. Choosing a sweet treat for your child? Dr. Studen-Pavlovich suggests opting for a cookie or pudding rather than chewy, sticky foods like licorice and fruit snacks, which can cling to a child’s teeth for the rest of the afternoon.
“It’s important to remember that many students won’t have the opportunity to brush after their midday meal,” Dr. Studen-Pavlovich said. “Parents need to consider that when packing a child’s lunch.”
Children who can’t sneak in a trip to the washroom to brush their pearly whites before returning to class can instead chew sugarless gum after eating, which will help to clear away any remaining food particles. However, keeping teeth clean can be particularly challenging to children and teenagers with braces and other dental appliances, so they should make time to at least take a toothbrush – even if it’s without toothpaste – to their teeth. The motion alone should be enough to get rid of most residue.
Don’t forget bedtime brushing - Early-morning school bells call for the introduction of a strict bedtime schedule. As you re-establish your child’s evening routine, be sure to make oral hygiene a part of it.
“The most important time to brush and floss is right before going to sleep,” Dr. Studen-Pavlovich said, noting that thorough brushing and flossing can cut down on bacterial growth in the mouth overnight. Evening also is an opportune time because parents won’t be rushed, unlike in the mornings when they’re trying to get everyone out of the house, allowing them to focus on their child’s technique and make sure they’re not missing any tough-to-reach spots.
The evening routine also gives parents the chance to reinforce good hygiene habits. Children should brush for a full two minutes, and this can be accomplished by using a toothbrush with a built-in timer, or by placing a kitchen timer on the sink. Parents should choose a toothpaste that is approved by the American Dental Association, which indicates that it has the appropriate levels of active fluoride. Flossing also is an important component of oral hygiene, and parents should work with young children to show them how to floss properly. Both toothpaste and floss can now be purchased in a variety of kid-friendly flavors.
Protect your student-athlete’s mouth - Many of the students returning to the classroom will also be ushering in a new sports season, and for athletes participating in contact sports like football and soccer, mouthguards are a must. Just one hard tackle or blocked goal could knock out or break a tooth, but a properly fitted mouthguard can go far in preventing a dental catastrophe, according to Dennis N. Ranalli, D.D.S., M.D.S., senior associate dean of the School of Dental Medicine.
“Most dental injuries that result from sports can be avoided with the consistent use of a quality mouthguard tailored to the athlete’s individual characteristics,” Dr. Ranalli said.
Mouthguards are classified into three categories: one-size-fits-all, or “stock”; boil-and-bite, and custom-fabricated, according to Dr. Ranalli. Athletes should steer clear of the stock and boil-and-bite varieties, which tend to fit poorly, interfere with breathing and speech and offer little, if any, protection. Custom-fabricated mouthguards are the best choice for fit, comfort, durability and protection. However, they are also the most expensive because they are created by dental professionals based on a model of the athlete’s teeth. Even so, the cost is a small amount of money to pay for protection against injuries that could lead to thousands of dollars in restorative care.
- Contact Information
- Kelli McElhinny
- University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
- Contact via E-mail
This news content was configured by WebWire editorial staff. Linking is permitted.
News Release Distribution and Press Release Distribution Services Provided by WebWire.