Back-to-school oral health checklist

Uniforms, sports equipment, stationery – there's lots to think about when you're helping your children get ready for the new school term. But you shouldn't forget about the things that really matter, like their oral health.

Making sure your child knows how to look after their teeth and gums – both at home and at school – will help them to stay healthy and avoid dental problems as much as possible.

Scheduling your family's dental check-up before term starts will also give you the chance to take care of any treatments that need to be done before things get busy.

Establish good oral hygiene habits

Good oral hygiene should begin as soon as your child is able to use a toothbrush. The earlier you set a routine for brushing their teeth twice a day, the easier it will be to instil this behaviour for life.

Help the little ones feel involved in their oral care decisions by shopping for toothbrushes together. Nothing encourages brushing like a favourite brush, and remember that you'll need to change their toothbrush every few months (or after an illness), so make sure you stock up on spares.

Your child probably won't be brushing their teeth at school, of course, but you can encourage them to rinse their mouth in the water fountain after eating to remove leftover food.

Pack a teeth-friendly lunch every day

Oral care isn't only about brushing. You also need to be confident that your child is eating a healthy, balanced diet, and the easiest way to make sure of that is to prepare healthy lunches yourself.

Minimising sugary snacks and soft drinks helps to keep plaque at bay, and you can strengthen their growing teeth by including calcium-rich options like milk, yoghurt and cheese. Don't forget fresh fruit, raw vegetables and grains too, to give your child all the vitamins and minerals their bodies need.

Make sure their teeth are protected

Sport is an important part of your child's education, helping them to get essential exercise and to work off excess energy. But many sports also carry the risk of injury, especially for vulnerable parts of the body like the teeth.

Wearing a sports mouthguard is the best way for your child to protect their teeth against accidental damage. You can buy these over the counter in sports shops or talk to your dentist about custom-fit mouthguards that offer a higher level of protection and are more comfortable to wear.

Visit the dentist twice a year

Once your child starts to grow their permanent teeth, they need to visit the dentist as often as you do. Ideally this should be every six months, as this gives your dentist the chance to catch oral health problems early, when they're easier to treat and without requiring time off school.

Just like twice-daily brushing, twice-yearly visits to the dentist starting at an early age will help your child get used to seeing the dentist as a normal part of their routine, and this can set them up for good oral health for life.

Find out more about children's dentistry at Ocean Reef Dental Surgery.