Teens and summertime go together like the Fourth of July and cookouts. For many teens summer means carefree days of sleeping in, hanging out with friends, going to the movies and let’s not forget – no homework!
Photo source: tentotwenty.com
Unfortunately, teens and tweens sometimes take the summer off from oral hygiene too, and that makes it harder for kids to stay on top of cavity prevention. Many dentists know that summertime often means more time for kids to drink sodas, eat sticky candy and consume starchy foods like french fries, pizzas and white bread.
Dental Wire has reported previously on drinks and foods that hurt tooth enamel and foster cavities, and Agent Straight-Talk has offered healthy tips on foods and diets that are helpful for our teeth and oral health. But aside from the quality of food itself, what is it about summer that makes the tooth care of teens and tweens more difficult?
1) Kids have more free time in the summer so they invest much of that extra time doing what many of us like to do when the “fish are jumpin’, and the livin’ is easy” – eat. And much of what they’re eating lodges between their teeth, lingers in their mouth for long periods and feeds the bacteria that create cavities.
2) Summertime is hot, and many people like chewing or sucking on ice in an effort to stay cool. While chewing on ice may be a popular summer pastime, it is never a good idea because it can cause tiny fractures in the teeth that weaken them. Once weakened, the teeth may eventually break off or absorb extra bacteria into their fissures that become cavities.
3) Permissive parenting often means more popsicles, sodas and ice cream for kids with time on their hands and parents counting the days until school starts again. Because kids are often allowed to stay up later they may “forget” about brushing their teeth before bedtime and need reminded.
4) Prolonged exposure to chlorine in swimming pools can wear away tooth enamel. Anyone know of a kid who doesn't take in a couple of mouthfuls of pool water while swimming with friends?
Parents can ensure their kids take good care of their teeth and have a good summer with a few quick tips:
Have kids take their sweet or gummy vitamins with breakfast and before brushing their teeth each morning
Fun foods like nuts and yogurt strengthen a tooth’s surface so supplement your child’s sweet tooth with more healthy staples
Apples, pears, yogurt and other dairy neutralize acids in food like tomatoes and citrus so keep these on hand to counter less healthy summer treats
Keep your mouth closed while swimming and lightly brush your teeth afterwards
Have kids sip sugary drinks through a straw to minimize contact with the teeth
Encourage kids to drink water frequently during the day to wash their teeth and counter bacteria
Everyone in the family should brush twice daily and floss regularly
While summer presents some challenges for kids’ oral hygiene, using practical tips today can help parents enjoy lazy, carefree days without sacrificing their kids’ bright smiles in the fall.