During the summer, a number of our pediatric patients tend to lose the healthy habits they have throughout the structured school year. For many children, during the school year, their oral hygiene and other habits are aligned with school hours and earlier bedtimes. Summer months bring opportunities for change, including for our pediatric patients to sleep in and stay up late. Brushing schedules may be negatively affected. Summer months also bring on the potential for changes in dietary habits, more access to unhealthy snacks and treats, and more snacking.
Develop a plan
Developing a plan to address this situation can help to ensure you are meeting the needs of pediatric patients including over their summer break. There are many resources available to us as dental hygienists when addressing children’s oral health. Resources from the Bright Smiles Bright Futures website can help you with handouts for your pediatric patients of all ages, and for parents/guardians.
Think of ideas you can use to help encourage children to “check off” their brushing and that parents/guardians can use to brush with their younger children. For example, a calendar where they give themselves a sticker in the morning and evening after they have brushed their teeth. This can help to maintain good oral hygiene habits, even if their other habits temporarily change.
You can also recommend an electric toothbrush for pediatric patients, such as the Colgate Kids Battery Toothbrush, Minions that makes brushing fun for younger patients, or the Colgate hum brush which provides coaching and feedback while brushing.
Encourage Healthy Eating Habits
Providing print outs about healthy snacks can help parents get ahead of the high sugar snacks. Nutritional counseling with parents is just as important as it is for a child. Encourage parents to purchase snacks that are low in sugars and low carbohydrate, and provide information from reputable sources and on websites where parents can learn about healthy snack options that they could then purchase and have readily accessible. Parents can also limit the number of snacking events, as well as beverages high in sugars. Having water readily available as a thirst quencher is an option, and flavored waters are also available. If children are drinking a soda or sugar-sweetened beverage, advice can be given on using a straw to minimize contact with teeth.
As pediatric patients come into your office, perform a Caries Risk Assessments to identify any factors increasing risk for dental caries for younger and older pediatric patients. As always, an updated caries risk assessment is important to detect any changes in risk factors and determine the areas where you can provide the best help. Discuss your findings with the child if old enough, and with parents/guardians so that they can understand why you are making recommendations and why these are important.
In-office application of a 5% sodium fluoride varnish, such as Colgate Prevident Varnish, is suitable for pediatric patients of all ages at increased risk, and provides added protection against dental caries. For children who are at least 6 years-of-age, you can also recommend at-home use of a high-level fluoride toothpaste, such as Colgate Prevident 5000 Booster Plus.
Summer months bring sunshine, travel and a slower pace for many families. Dental health and healthy habits do not have to go away. Preparing your patients with resources and having conversations and recommendations before these things happen can provide a much happier transition for the summer months, and can reduce the chance of the child needing additional dental care.
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