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  • Writer's pictureMark Roberts

Summertime Smiles

School is out, and it's Summer time. You have at least a couple of good months to enjoy time with family and friends without all the hustle and bustle that happens during the Fall, Winter and Spring when kids are in class, or in extracurricular activities such as band or sports. You likely already have your vacation already planned, or maybe you're at least thinking about it. Perhaps you're looking forward to spending some time at the beach, soaking up the sun and the surf. Or, you might be thinking about taking time to visit a national park, or a major theme park like Disney or spend a few days with grandparents and other family.

What have you done about your dental health to get ready for this big break in the calendar? During these hot days in June, July and August, your teeth and gums can take a beating. Resist the temptation to skip brushing before a late bedtime—or let it slide when they sleep in the next morning. No matter how eventful the upcoming months become, supervise your kids that they are brushing twice a day for 2 minutes with fluoride toothpaste.

Simple things like brushing calendars can help everyone stay on track over the Summer. Plus, it’s a chance to spend more time together. Brushing alongside your children for 2 minutes, twice a day for the three months of summer gives you 6 extra hours together, so make the most of them!

Additionally, healthy teeth and gums need regular flossing. Flossing cleans 35% of tooth surfaces that your toothbrush cannot reach. Flossing prevents bad breath, cavities, tartar buildup and gum disease.  This protects your teeth and overall health, including your heart.  So get those boss vibes going 100% and floss regularly after each brushing.

Also, as the temperature rises, it’s common for families to sip and snack during sports tournaments, festivals or nearly any community event. The temptation is to load up on sugary drinks, like sodas and flavored juices. Instead, offer water (even better if it has fluoride) to beat the heat, or milk to drink with meals, and don’t let summertime grazing damage your child’s smile. Or at least, make sure they brush before bedtime. Taking a break from snacking allows time for saliva to bathe the teeth, wash away leftover food and get stronger.

Here's another tip for your teeth - Avoid chewing ice. The summer weather can be brutal, but that doesn’t mean you have to be on your teeth. Chewing ice is one of the most common ways to damage tooth enamel, which can lead to chipped or fractured teeth. The last thing you want to deal with on vacation is visiting the dentist for an emergency visit. Instead of chewing ice, try putting a few ice cubes in your favorite summer drink to help keep you cool.

Some schools also require back-to-school dental visits for certain grades. These checkups are a good way to be sure your child’s teeth stayed healthy. It is a good idea to make your child’s back-to-school appointment early in the Summer. This will both help you avoid the August rush and help insure you get the appointment time that works best for you.

While it’s important to polish up the pearly whites and make sure the plaque and tarter are removed, the cleaning visit is about more than just dental hygiene. The dentist monitors the status and position of the kids’ baby teeth and emerging adult teeth. Sometimes those baby teeth aren’t coming out when they’re supposed to, which can create problems for the adult teeth still in the gums.

Regular visits help ensure that a professional is watching the situation to make sure they don’t end up needing an emergency dentist visit later, requiring more extensive treatment! Your dentist will also monitor your kids’ teeth for orthodontic issues that can affect their function and appearance, and make recommendations and referrals when appropriate.

At the cleaning visit, your dentist will check your child’s mouth for existing or developing cavities. If there is a cavity, getting it filled on the earlier side may prevent a bigger problem later. The dentist can also advise you and your kids on the best brushing and flossing techniques, which is a great take-home lesson with a life-long impact on oral health.

There are also beneficial health reasons to visit the dentist. Dentists can perform an oral cancer check, something that’s difficult for parents to do on their own. Oral and physical health are interrelated, according to the Mayo Clinic. It’s important to tell the dentist about any medications you or the kids are taking, for a more complete assessment of your health.

During a routine dental exam, you or your kids (depending on who is in the chair) usually receive an in-depth dental cleaning as well as a comprehensive exam. Plus, at least once a year, the dentist office takes a full set of x-rays to see how your teeth look. During this time, your dentist can recommend any necessary treatment and schedule your next visit.

By following these simple guidelines, you can develop good dental habits with your children as well as remind yourself of the need to keep your teeth and gums in a vacation ready grin suitable for framing. Just because it's Summer time doesn't mean you should get out of a regular routine for dental care. As well, your overall health depends on keeping those pearly whites camera ready.

If you are one of the 75 million Americans who don't have dental insurance or some type of dental plan, visit this website to choose from many affordable types of dental programs. If you have any questions about any of them, contact me for a conversation about what plan may best fit your needs as an individual or a family. If you are an employer considering adding dental benefits for your employees, let's talk before the Summer is over to make sure a program can be put together before the Fall.

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