Dental check-up can make you all smiles for school

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While the term “back-to-school” brings to mind busy schedules and the purchase of new backpacks, lunchboxes, clothing and a laundry list of supplies, a dental check-up is an integral part of a child’s overall health and wellbeing.

Untreated dental disease can interfere with learning, speech and eating, leading to poor nutrition and problems in the classroom.

One-third of children ages 6-8 have untreated cavities in permanent teeth. Tooth decay, which can result in cavities, pain and infection, has become the most common childhood disease.

Regular dental screenings can help prevent tooth decay. At a dental check-up, a dentist can identify risks and help watch for more serious problems and even can suggest important prevention measures, like sealants for your child’s molars. Dentists can also identify early signs of other diseases like diabetes.

“A regular check-up with the dentist is as important as receiving an annual physical, especially for children,” said Ashley Hathaway, outreach coordinator for DentaQuest, which administers the dental benefits program for TennCare.

“As DentaQuest takes part in back-to-school festivals across the state, we are encouraging parents to make an annual back-to-school dental visit part of their child’s routine for the rest of their school lives,” Hathaway added.

“Kids who become comfortable seeing the dentist from a young age will likely continue with routine dental screenings through their youth and adulthood, lowering the likelihood of more serious dental issues occurring later in life.”

Regular visits to a dental care provider are crucial, but in-between check-ups, parents can help protect children’s teeth year-round with some simple tips:

• Sip through a straw. Sugar and acid in soda and sports drinks can eat away at tooth enamel. Send children to school with a straw so the liquid will have less contact with their teeth.

• Fight decay with fluoride. Skip bottled water and have children drink water from the tap if the community fluoridates its water supply.

• Blow bubbles. Chewing gum isn’t necessarily bad for children’s teeth, as long as it’s sugarless. Look for chewing gum containing xylitol, a natural sweetener proven to help prevent tooth decay, listed as one of the top three ingredients.

• Guard their teeth. When wearing a mouth guard, children are 60 times less likely to suffer tooth damage than an athlete without one. According to the American Dental Association, sports-related injuries knock out 2 million teeth per year.

Visit the DentaQuest website at www.dentaquest.com/tn and look for the “Oral Health Resources” link for more oral health resources, to check risks for dental disease or to put oral IQ to the test.