Be Dental Ready for Back to School

Be Dental Ready for Back to School

Dr. Matt Artho

Back to school is all about inciting those opportunities of education and self-knowledge, and as it has always been my pleasure to educate Argyle families with monthly dental advice, I am even more grateful to initiate the school year with my own back to school dental lecture. Most of all, as a featured article, I am happy to be able to go beyond the maximum 400 words, not that I was ever a teacher’s pet or anything. Joking aside, poor oral health and dental emergencies can be a distraction for learning and can hinder school activities. So, gather up those backpacks, clean out the lunch bags, grab your notebooks, pens, and pencils, and let the educating begin!

The routine of school works well for dental health, as long as good dental habits are implemented into our schedule and our children’s schedules. It begins, as dentists often advocate, with good brushing and flossing habits. Brushing in the morning after breakfast will help keep plaque forming food and acids from lingering throughout the day. The same is true at night, as brushing before bed keeps bacteria at bay when you are sleeping and saliva flow is decreased.

Of course, add a round of flossing to the roster at least once a day, as A+ teeth need healthy gums to remain at the top of the class.

Sports and extracurricular activities are always a big part of school, and unprotected teeth can result in unwanted dental trauma. My first recommendation for athletes is to wear an athletic mouth guard. Generic mouth guards are available at many sport stores or pharmacies, and your dentist can provide a custom mouthpiece for better fit and comfort. Non-contact sports like running, golf, or powerlifting can cause teeth chattering or clenching. Small mouth pieces can be made by your dentist to keep your teeth separated during these activities. Mouth guards that fit over braces will help prevent trauma from orthodontic brackets.

Speaking of orthodontics, orthodontic treatment should also be maintained during school. Dislodged brackets or wires can get in the way of studies, and because they trap food and plaque, poor cleaning can result in inflamed gums and tooth decay. Braces are often a concern for band students or athletes who fear this will inhibit performance. I often treat these patients with Invisalign, which is an orthodontic treatment involving clear trays that are changed weekly to move teeth. When indicated, Invisalign is a great option for compliant students because the trays can be removed allowing for easier oral hygiene.

Finally, many emergency situations can occur during school from sports injuries or playground blunders. Time is of the importance when dealing with dental trauma. If a traumatic event occurs, first assess the situation for loss of consciousness, concussion, or excessive bleeding. If this occurs, the emergency room or a physician should be the first stop. If an accident is dental only and causes a tooth or piece of tooth to come out, do not place it in water. Place it in milk, saliva, or it can even be held in the mouth as long as it does not pose a choking hazard. Finally, get to the dentist as soon as possible. A tooth replaced within an hour of the injury has the best chance of survival.

Of course, it goes without saying that making regular checkups at your dentist should be on the curriculum. I rarely meet a patient who was not happy to get out of school for a dental appointment, and I enjoy seeing them, too. Even I pick up on a little education from these tikes.

Enjoy the school year, and happy smiling!

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