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At the beginning of the school year, there tends to be a lot of craziness. Long gone are the days of lazing on the couch as they give way to early mornings and rushing out the door.

But that doesn’t mean that you should slack on your dental care.

“In the hustle and bustle of back-to-school, dental care often falls by the wayside,” Gretchen Henson, program director of advanced education in pediatric dentistry in the department of dental medicine at Interfaith Medical Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., said in a hospital news release.

It’s easy to forget to brush on those hectic school mornings, but kids should be making a point to still make it part of their routine, no matter how crazy things can get.

The following are some tips on how to keep those pearly whites in shape during this hectic time of year:

• Brush before breakfast. “The goal is to prevent the pH of the mouth from dropping to an unsafe zone since cavities form in an acidic environment,” said Henson. “Studies show that if we brush before we eat, the mouth’s pH will not dip low enough to form cavities.”

• Watch what you eat. Paying attention to diet isn’t only good for the rest of your body, but your teeth too! Foods that are processed or containing a lot of sugar are more harmful to teeth. As cliché as it sounds, these things really do cause cavities!

• Take shelf life into consideration. Packaged foods that have a longer shelf life than fresh foods, such as fruits and vegetables, contain starch. This starch coats the teeth and can be a breeding ground for bacteria that eventually cause cavities. Since these types of foods are readily available at schools, try to avoid keeping them in your pantry at home.

• Drink lots of H20. Many people tend to think that juice is healthy, but often don’t realize that many varieties contain a lot of added sugar. Sure, they’re better than drinking soda, but you should always try to opt for water whenever possible. This is another one of those things that isn’t just great for your body, but your teeth too!

If your kids can’t stand plain water, cut up some fruit such as cucumbers, strawberries or lemon to infuse into the water. It gives the water a little flavor without all that extra sugar.

Also, opt for giving your children actual fruit instead of juice. It helps them meet their fiber goals for the day while enjoying a nice, healthy snack.

• Wear protective equipment. We all know how much children love to be outside and active. But outdoor activities such as football, soccer, baseball and hockey lend themselves to a lot of potential injuries. Make sure your children are wearing all of the proper equipment for whatever activity they are engaging in, whether it be a helmet, pads or a mouth guard. The more preventative measures you and your children take, the less trips to the dentist!

• Seek help as soon as possible. When engaging in any of the activities mentioned above or others, accidents happen. When they do, make sure you take necessary steps to fix whatever may have gone wrong, no matter how minor it may seem. Problems can develop over time, often without you realizing it. For example, a small fall where your child may have landed on their face could potentially damage the root of a tooth. If a permanent tooth is knocked out, it must be replaced within 30 minutes. Never scrub a tooth that has fallen out, even if it looks dirty. This could kill the root.

• No pain doesn’t mean no problems. Cavities in children aren’t usually painful until they become infected. So, some children with cavities may not even experience any tooth pain.

• Wear braces? Be extra careful. Those who wear braces should be even more diligent about their dental care. Brushing around those brackets and wires can be a challenge and often times, plaque builds up around them. This plaque eventually leads to permanent tooth damage.

Since braces are most often associated with children and teens, certain hormonal changes that occur during adolescence can alter the oral bacteria. This makes it even more important for kids and teens to pay special attention to their teeth during these years, especially if they have braces or other dental appliances.

“Children should see the dentist twice a year, but adequate home care, healthy diets and trauma prevention can ensure that children’s teeth stay healthy when they get back to school,” Henson added.

SOURCES: Interfaith Medical Center, news release, June 30, 2015
HealthDay, August 23, 2015