Dr. Choudhury’s note: This article was originally published on 08/01/2012 on our old website.  It has been updated to include new content.

Back-To-School Dental Exam

For hundreds of thousands of children across Houston, the end of summer marks the beginning of another school year. This often means a trip to the pediatrician or family doctor for a physical exam. Sadly, however, one part of the body that is still being overlooked is right under our noses—the mouth, which, upon closer examination, reveals that the state of oral health among thousands of Texas children is not making the grade. According to the American Dental Association, dental decay is the single most prevalent childhood disease. Approximately 51 million school hours are lost each year due to dental-related problems. Just like that physical exam before school starts, taking the preventive measure of a dental exam may help prevent your child from missing valuable school days later in the year. A dentist will be able to examine your child’s teeth and mouth for signs of decay or other issues and make sure everything in the mouth is developing properly. You also want to ensure your child’s teeth are healthy and cavity-free because, in addition to the oral health implications, children can’t concentrate and learn in school when they have a toothache.

Preventing dental disease in children also involves adopting good oral hygiene habits, limiting their intake of sugary drinks and snacks, and having dental sealants applied when appropriate. Parents can help children maintain a healthy smile all year long by making sure they floss their teeth and brush well at least twice a day with fluoridated toothpaste. Avoid packing their school lunch bags with snack items such as candy, sugared gum, sticky granola bars, and even raisins, which can cling to the teeth and lead to decay. You may also want to consider dental sealants, which are thin plastic coatings brushed on to the tooth surfaces to prevent cavities. And if your community’s water supply is not fluoridated or if you have private well water, check with your dentist about the possibility of fluoride supplements for your child.

Dr. Choudhury and Dr. Payumo strongly encourage parents to include dental office visits as part of their child’s back-to-school routine. That way, when it comes time for the class photo to be taken later this fall, your child will really have something to smile about . . . and so will you.