Children’s dental health can suffer over the summer due to lax family routines and increased access to sugary foods and beverages. What can you do to help keep your child’s teeth healthy? Here are few tips.

Choose a healthy diet

From ice cream to soft drinks, summer foods and beverages can be hard on teeth. To limit the damage, try to prevent constant snacking, and avoid sugary and starchy foods. Pick foods that are good for dental health as well as overall health, such as raw vegetables, yogurt and cheese. Cheese is one of the healthiest snacks for children’s teeth. A recent study by the Academy of General Dentistry found that cheddar cheese stimulates the salivary glands, which helps the mouth maintain a healthy pH level and releases chemical compounds that protect tooth enamel from acids.

In terms of beverages, sports drinks can be a good choice during or after strenuous activity, but for general rehydration nothing beats water. Juice, though nutritionally far superior to soft drinks, isn’t great for teeth; flavored water can be a better (and lower-calorie) alternative.

Maintain a good oral hygiene routine

Oral hygiene is sometimes neglected as a result of changing summer schedules. Make sure your child continues to brush and floss as part of a morning and evening routine. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that children floss once a day and brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush.

Know what to do in a dental emergency

For many children, summer activities can increase the risk of breaking or knocking out a tooth. If an adult tooth is knocked out, pick it up by the crown and, without touching the root, rinse it gently and replace it firmly in the socket. Go to the dentist immediately. If you can’t hold the tooth in the socket, place it in a glass of milk and take it with you to the dentist.

If a tooth is chipped or broken, go to the dentist as soon as he or she is able to see you, especially if you see the tooth is bleeding.

Cover the back-to-school bases

Your back-to-school checklist should include the following items:

n Dental checkup: Make sure any problems are diagnosed and treated so your child doesn’t miss school due to dental issues.

n Mouth guard: If your child participates in sports, a properly fitted mouth guard can prevent emergency trips to the dentist.

n Diet plan: A balanced diet is critical to dental health. If your child takes lunches or snacks to school, identify healthy food and drink options. If your child eats in the cafeteria, help him or her make good choices by reviewing the menus together.

n Oral hygiene plan: Revisit your child’s schedule and make sure he or she is brushing and flossing regularly.

If you keep these tips in mind, your child’s smile should stay happy and healthy throughout the summer and beyond.

Dr. Jeffrey Sulitzer is chief dental officer for Capitol Dental Care, which has two providers in West Linn, Michael Hazel Family Dentistry and The Kids Dentist.

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