Unfortunately, teens and tweens sometimes take the summer off from oral hygiene, and that makes it harder for kids to stay on top of cavity prevention. Many dentists know that summertime often means more time for kids to drink sodas, eat sticky candy and consume starchy foods like French fries, pizzas and white bread. But aside from the quality of food itself, what is it about summer that makes the tooth care of teens and tweens more difficult?
1) Kids have more free time in the summer so they invest much of that extra time doing what many of us like to do when the “fish are jumpin’, and the livin’ is easy” – eat. And much of what they’re eating lodges between their teeth, lingers in their mouth for long periods and feeds the bacteria that create cavities.
2) Summertime is hot, and many people like chewing or sucking on ice in an effort to stay cool. While chewing on ice may be a popular summer pastime, it is never a good idea because it can cause tiny fractures in the teeth that weaken them. Once weakened, the teeth may eventually break off or absorb extra bacteria into their fissures that become cavities.
3) Permissive parenting often means more popsicles, sodas and ice cream for kids with time on their hands and parents counting the days until school starts again. Because kids are often allowed to stay up later they may “forget” about brushing their teeth before bedtime and need reminded.
4) Prolonged exposure to chlorine in swimming pools can wear away tooth enamel. Anyone know of a kid who doesn’t take in a couple of mouthfuls of pool water while swimming with friends?
Kids Taking Care of Teeth
Parents can ensure their kids take good care of their teeth and have a good summer with a few quick tips:
- Have kids take their sweet or gummy vitamins with breakfast and before brushing their teeth each morning
- Fun foods like nuts and yogurt strengthen a tooth’s surface so supplement your child’s sweet tooth with more healthy staples
- Apples, pears, yogurt and other dairy neutralize acids in food like tomatoes and citrus so keep these on hand to counter less healthy summer treats
- Keep your mouth closed while swimming and lightly brush your teeth afterwards
- Have kids sip sugary drinks through a straw to minimize contact with the teeth
- Encourage kids to drink water frequently during the day to wash their teeth and counter bacteria
Keep Up That Oral Hygiene
Brushing twice a day and flossing daily is as important in the summer as it is in any other season. But with vacations, camp and lots of days spent at the pool, don’t be surprised if you frequently need to remind your kids to brush and floss.
Now is a great time to buy new toothbrushes to replace the old, worn out or “germy” ones. In fact, you should stock up on extra brushes, as well as travel-sized toothpaste and floss for those summer trips and days out.
Now’s the Time for Checkups
Parents tend to schedule dental checkups in August, right before class starts. But to prevent dental problems over summer, book the kids in June for a dental visit. This way, the kids will have a clean bill of dental health for summer. The last thing you want is a child suffering from a toothache while away on summer vacation.
Stock a Healthy Kitchen
Keep the summer from being an “acid attack” on your family’s teeth by investing in healthy snacks. It’s hard to limit snacking when the kids are home all day, but with the availability of fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables, you can stock the fridge with healthy options. Be sure to keep the fruits and veggies clean and ready to grab. You’ll feel better about snacking when the kids are reaching for blueberries and strawberries instead of candy and cookies. And swap out the sugary, acidic soft drinks with bottled water.
Prevent Dental Emergencies
It wouldn’t be summer without lots of swimming, bike riding, volleyball and other playground activities. And while these are great fun, they can unfortunately result in a dental injury. Parents can be prepared for the worst by following these tips:
- Make sure your kids follow the “pool rules.” According to the Academy of General Dentistry, many of the summer oral injuries dentists treat are due to a pool accident. Running on slippery pool decks, diving into shallow waters or bumping the pool ledge with their mouth causes many children to either chip or knock a tooth loose.
- Know what to do yourself. Getting to the dentist right away is important, but there are things you can do to help. Use warm water and cold packs first, to clean the area and reduce swelling, respectively. Use gauze to stop any bleeding. Place a lost permanent tooth back in the mouth, if possible. If not, use salt water or milk to keep it moist for the ride to the dentist.
- Pack an emergency dental care kit to take along for vacation. Essentials for this kit, according to the AGD, are a handkerchief, gauze, a small container with a lid, ibuprofen and your dentist’s contact information.
Summer can really throw your routine for a loop. But by following these oral health tips for summer, your kids can start the school year with great oral hygiene. While, using practical tips today can help parents enjoy lazy, carefree days without sacrificing their kids’ bright smiles in the fall.
Sources: Washington Post, WebMD, Delta Dental, Colgate.com