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Tips for Back-to-School Smiles

Backpacks, pencils, notebooks, carpools, sports schedules–there is so much to keep track of when a new school year starts. Here at Affiliated Dentists in Madison, Wisconsin, we want to help your family keep your smiles bright even with the busyness of a new academic year. Here are few of our best tips for back-to-school smiles that are healthy, strong, and ready for school-picture day:

  • New School Year, New Toothbrush
  • Get Flossing!
  • Swap Out Some Sugar

Put Toothbrushes on Your Back-to-School Supply List

Make sure your kids are getting the most out of their toothbrushing time by ensuring they have fairly new brushes. According to the American Dental Association, toothbrushes should be replaced every three to four months. After this time frame, toothbrush bristles become frayed. Worn-out bristles are less effective at removing tartar and plaque from the teeth. If your child has been using the same toothbrush all summer, it’s time for a new one!

Hint: if your child’s toothbrush bristles look frayed well before three months’ time, it could be a sign that they’re brushing too hard. Too-aggressive brushing can cause gums to recede and enamel to wear down. Give your child a soft toothbrush and encourage gentle circular motions that will efficiently clear away debris without causing wear and tear to teeth and gums.

Make Flossing a Must

Why is flossing so hard to incorporate into the daily family routine? It really doesn’t take much time, but for so many of us, it’s often a dental habit that gets skipped over. However, we all know that flossing is very important in maintaining a healthy smile. Flossing removes food and plaque from between the teeth where brushing can’t reach.

Try using the new school year as a fresh start to reintroduce your family to flossing. Pick a less busy time of day to incorporate the extra step of flossing. If morning is too rushed in getting everyone out the door, try flossing at bedtime. You can set bedtime five minutes earlier to allow for the extra tooth care. Or if everyone is too tired to tackle it at bedtime, consider flossing after school. Aim for a flossing session at least once a day.

Also, take a look at your flossing tools. If string floss is too tricky for little fingers to work or your child doesn’t like your doing it for them, buy a big pack of flossers that your kiddos can use themselves. You can also try packing a flosser in your child’s lunchbox to use after lunch. Water flossers are another nice alternative to string floss.

Sticker charts, fun rewards, a silly family dance session, there are plenty of ways to motivate your little ones to keep up the habit. Don’t give up until you find a method of flossing that works for your family. Helping instill great dental hygiene skills now will help your child enjoy a healthy smile her whole life.

Swap Out One Sugary Treat a Day

Moderation in all things–even sugar. While you probably can’t ban the sweet stuff from your house entirely, you might get away with swapping out at least one sweet item a day for something more tooth-friendly.

Because sugar promotes the growth of bacteria in the mouth that erodes enamel, causing cavities, trying to cut down on it is a good idea to promote oral health.

Does your child wake up to a bowl of sugary cereal each morning? Consider swapping in a healthier, low-sugar option. Instead of packing a juice box in his lunch, maybe pack instead a bottle of plain water. If you’re feeling really brave, instead of serving a sweet treat like cookies after school, you can try a platter of raw veggies with a few fun dips. Raw veggies have the added benefit of naturally scrubbing teeth clean. Cheese is another tooth-friendly snack to serve.

Schedule Your Child’s Semi-Annual Cleaning

In the midst of all the other scheduling you’re doing, be sure to get your child’s cleanings on the schedule. Most children should be seen every six months for a cleaning and exam. Going too long between cleanings can increase the likelihood that your child will develop cavities or even a toothache. Getting the appointment on the calendar can help ensure your child won’t face a bigger dental challenge in the school year.

Pediatric Dentistry in Madison, Wisconsin

At Affiliated Dentists, we provide a wide array of dental services, including pediatric dentistry in Madison, Wisconsin. For more tips for back-to-school smiles or if you’d like to schedule a dental cleaning for your child, please contact us today.

Tips for Back-to-School Smiles brought to you by Dr. Mark Gustavson


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