Summer break is the hardest time to get kids to stay on top of their oral health care routines. At least that’s what 30 percent of parents told Delta Dental in its May 2017 Children’s Oral Health Survey. The survey asked 1,588 parents about a variety of topics related to their children’s oral health, including the toughest times for children to maintain healthy habits.
Dr. Stephen Hill of Allen, Texas believes children have a harder time caring for their teeth in the summer for many reasons.
"It can be difficult for children to maintain any kind of routine when there is a big shift in how their day is structured," he said. "During the school year most kids have pretty much the same routine, but then in the summer everything changes."
From evenings at the pool to late baseball games, sleepovers at friends’ houses and family vacations, sometimes by the time they get home, kids are too tired to brush their teeth, or if they’re not home or around their parents, they may simply choose not to brush their teeth before bed. Also problematic are those summer treats like cotton candy, popsicles and late-night milkshakes that are synonymous with summertime. While it’s fine to indulge in a summer dessert, going to bed without brushing those treats off your teeth can be bad news for your teeth.
"When you leave sweets on your teeth without brushing, you are providing a veritable buffet for the bacteria that cause cavities," said Hill. "The bacteria in your mouth eat the sugar left behind on your teeth, and in the process, creates an acid which eats away at the tooth enamel. The longer you go without brushing, the more time these bacteria have to wreak havoc on your teeth."
So, what can you do to ensure your kids are taking care of their teeth this summer? For starters, try to establish at least one routine with them.
"If you make no other routines this summer, have your kids make brushing their teeth twice a day the one thing that stays constant," said Hill. "Try motivating them by making a reward chart. Rewards don’t have to be expensive. You can dream up lots of free and low-cost prizes, like letting them stay up an extra hour on the weekend if they brush their teeth all week, or letting them have a friend over or even letting them choose an activity the whole family has to participate in, like a family volleyball game or water balloon fight."
If none of that works, it may help to simply remind your kids that though it may not be fun to brush your teeth when you’re exhausted or in the middle of having fun, it’s still a lot more fun than having to lose a day of summer vacation to getting cavities filled.