Back To School (With Improved Dental Habits!)
Dr Zamena Janmohamed offers some positive oral health tips for parents.
Some schools will already have started back after the Summer holidays, with others following a week later. In many cases, both parents and children will be happy about this and look forward to getting back into their regular routines.
Although it can all be a bit ‘last minute’ on the first morning back, with everyone having to change their morning habits, it is also a good time to take stock of how well we are helping (or not) our children to have healthy teeth during term times.
At the Confidental Clinic in Clapham, as at all other practices around the country, we see far too many children who have tooth decay. Although some of this is probably to be expected, due to kids love of sugary sweets, it is well beyond what we should be seeing if certain guidelines were followed.
To this end, here are a few useful tips for parents whose kids are starting back to school.
The morning rush
Start as you mean to go on. Although the first day might be a bit chaotic in the morning, getting your children off to a healthy and tooth friendly start will reap dividends. They may initially complain when you don’t let them have their favourite high sugar cereal or chocolate spread, but they will soon adapt to it. Especially if they brush their teeth before they eat breakfast, an unhealthy diet will mean that their teeth and gums are already coated in sugar right from the start of the day.
Try to switch to some tooth friendly foods. It may be tricky at first, but can soon become a healthy habit. Some suggestions include
- No (or low) sugar cereal
- Egg on toast or scrambled egg
- Fruit (avoid acidic ones such as oranges)
- Sugar free yoghurts
There are many more, and a quick search on the internet will help you to provide more variety.
Do you let your children pack their own lunches? If so, you might be surprised by what you find in them. Cake, biscuits, chocolate and crisps would probably be the fuel of choice if children were left to their own devices. This is asking for trouble and means a very good chance that they will end up with cavities. Where the child is young, this may entail a stay in hospital to have the teeth filled or extracted.
One area that almost all parents can improve on is making sure that their children drink water or zero-sugar cordials at school and at home, and avoid the high sugar drinks that most of them would probably choose. These are usually not only high in sugar but also very acidic, easily damaging the enamel on young teeth.
Back to school is also a good time to check that their toothbrushes are not worn out. A golden rule of thumb is to change them every three months or so. Worn bristles are less effective at keeping both teeth and gums clean. Make sure too that, in the morning rush, or when they are tired at night, they still brush their teeth well. Supervise them if they are young enough and time them for a minimum of two minutes. Although there have been calls from the medical and dental professions for ‘sugar free schools’ (reference 1 below), this is probably some way off, and until then parents should take responsibility for their children’s teeth.
Naturally, our Clapham dental team are here to help you and you should make sure that your child is registered with a dentist and sees one regularly for examinations. To make your appointment at the Confidental Clinic, please call us on 020 7801 9060.
Dr Zamena Janmohamed is a dentist at the Confidental Clinic in Clapham – GDC 251612