When the weather’s warm, it’s time for fun! But while families are enjoying outdoor sports, picnics, travel and more, healthy dental routines can falter, opening the door to cavities and other concerns.
Here are three ways that kids and adults can take extra-good care of their teeth while savoring the summer months.
1. Stick with your regular brushing and flossing routine
Whether you’re staying up late to catch fireflies or roast marshmallows, don’t fall into bed without brushing your teeth, says ADA pediatric dentist Dr. Mary Hayes.
“It’s important to brush and floss consistently, no matter how busy your family gets during the summer,” Dr. Hayes says. “You want to make sure that by back-to-school time, everyone’s dental health is in good shape.”
Kids and adults should brush with fluoride toothpaste for two minutes twice a day, every day, Dr. Hayes says. Simple tools such as brushing calendars can help families stay on track during the active summer months.
Starting and ending the day by brushing provides a nice slice of “together time” with young ones, she says. “If you brush alongside your kids twice daily, that’s four minutes a day — or six extra hours focused on healthy dental habits during the summer,” she explains.
Daily flossing is important, too. “Remind kids that they need to clean between any two teeth that touch each other,” Dr. Hayes says. “But keep in mind that smaller children don’t have the motor skills needed to floss until they’re at least 10 years old.”
If your child needs help, you can place your hands over theirs to offer guidance and get the job done. You can also try different tools such as soft picks or go-between brushes. (Here’s a list of flossing and cleansing tools that have earned the ADA Seal of Acceptance.)
2. Keep an eye on sugary drinks and snacks
We all love a sweet sip or bite while we’re watching the game, attending a block party or lounging by the pool. With a little moderation, you can enjoy a few treats and maintain a healthy mouth, too.
“Watch your family’s intake of lemonade, juice and soda,” Dr. Hayes suggests. “Think of sugary drinks as something to have once in a while.” For hydration and overall health, drink regular, fluoridated water with meals and snacks, she recommends.
Continuous snacking — a common summer habit — can be hard on teeth. “When we’re always eating, our teeth don’t get a break. It’s better to enjoy healthy meals and drink plain water in between. This gives saliva the chance to naturally cleanse our mouths, washing away leftover food and strengthening the structure of our teeth.”
Follow these helpful tips for reducing the sugar content of snacks your family consumes. Let kids tell you when they’re hungry instead of offering them food throughout the day. “Don’t worry, they’ll definitely let you know when they need something to eat!” Dr. Hayes says.
3. Schedule back-to-school dental visits early
Many schools require back-to-school dental visits for certain grades. But even if they’re not mandatory, late-summer dental appointments are a healthy idea. Book your child’s back-to-school appointment early to avoid the rush and secure a time slot that’s easiest for you.
“An end-of-summer visit gives your dentist the chance to deal with any concerns so your child won’t have to miss class once school starts,” Dr. Hayes says. “Seeing the dentist regularly is a healthy habit that parents can help kids embrace. It will definitely make a lifelong difference in their dental health.”