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Shelley Shearer: Tips for parents on creative back-to-school dental routines (and pack healthy lunches)


Routine. That’s the key to a successful start of the school year.

While you establish set schedules for bedtime, homework and electronic device time, don’t forget to enforce dental routines.

Here’s an easy guide for every parent.

Establish Daily Dental Rituals

Set times for tooth-brushing and flossing. Remember when your little one went through infant sleep training? You created rituals so that the baby knew it was bedtime.

The same goes for youngsters. It may be a routine that involves ending the last round of Fortnight, bath, jammies, tooth brushing/flossing, storytime and bed.

Whatever it is, stick to it and brushing teeth will soon become automatic behavior. A creative way to get two minutes of brushing in is to play a beloved two-minute song. Though you may have to suffer through 120 seconds of that annoying Baby Shark song, remember, it’s only two minutes and you are creating a habit that will hopefully last to adulthood.

The same holds true for mornings.

This is a tougher time since getting particular children out of bed can be a challenge. Some parents use a motivational chart or posted checklist to inspire the completion of morning activities.

Children receive a sticker or checkmark for their accomplishments: up on time, dressed and at the breakfast table on schedule, teeth brushed and flossed, and at the door with backpack zipped at the correct time. Their end-of-week reward can be a range of incentives: an ice cream cone, extra video game time, a new book or something else they cherish.

Get Used to Packing Daily Healthy Lunches

Nutritious eating leads to strong teeth. Packing a tooth-friendly lunch is easier than many think. While it goes without saying that sugary lunch snacks can lead to cavities, why not pack some sweet fruit? Strawberries, blueberries grapes, and bananas are kid favorites.

The fruit can be accompanied by carrots, celery (perhaps with some peanut butter), cherry tomatoes, snap peas and if possible, a bit of broccoli. Add some cheddar cheese cubes for more variety.

In addition to avoiding sugar, consider the effects of pretzels and chips. These carb-laden treats break down into a sticky goo that coats the teeth and can just as easily lead to cavities.

A small water bottle can complete the lunch and if permissible, hydrate your child all day.

Use Events to Trigger Regular Dental Check-Up Reminders

Most of America now knows that moving the clock back an hour means it’s time to inspect home smoke detectors. Why not create your own milestone to signal time for a dental visit? It could be the start of school, the first report card, a birthday, the beginning of the World Series or some other recurring event. Once children know this routine, they may be the ones reminding mom and dad about scheduling a visit.

However you launch the school year, know that it can be a fun time for parents and children with creative rituals and small incentives to establish a dental routine that will last for a lifetime.

Dr. Shelley Shearer is a graduate of the University of Louisville Dental School and Founder of Shearer Family and Cosmetic Dentistry in Florence, the largest all-female dental practice in Northern Kentucky.


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