For most children and teenagers, the start of summer break means three months of sleeping in late, trips to the beach, summer vacations, camps and other activities, that there just wasn’t time for when school was still in session.
But while the break brings with it a relaxed environment, it’s important to keep a regular routine when it comes to oral health.
For nine months out of the year, kids are generally regimented. They brush, floss and rinse with mouthwash before bed, then repeat that routine before they head to school the next morning. Once summer rolls around, though, that routine can easily slip away, leaving negative consequences in its place.
“Summer break is no excuse to let your oral health routine lapse,” says dentist and bacteriologist Dr. Harold Katz, developer of TheraBreath for Kids mouthwash (www.therabreath.com). “Bad breath, gum disease and cavities don’t take a vacation.”
Katz offers a few tips parents can follow to make sure their kids take care of their mouths, teeth, gums and breath this summer:
- Have a routine, not a schedule. The nine months that make up the school year usually come with a pretty rigid schedule for kids. While a summer schedule isn’t necessary, keeping kids in some type of general routine is helpful. This includes reminding them that even if they are staying home all day, staying up late or sleeping in, they still need to follow through on their daily oral-health routine.
- Stay hydrated. The summer months bring warm temperatures and kids are likely to participate in more outdoor activities. Keeping hydrated is important to staying healthy and maintaining every system and region of the body. This includes the mouth.
Katz says drinking water can help prevent dry mouth and the negative effects that come with it such as bad breath, tooth and gum disease, mouth sores, gingivitis and more. Dry mouth can even cause taste buds to shut down, making those summer hot dogs and ice cream bars a little less appetizing.
- Watch what your kids drink. It might be tempting to give kids sports drinks because of their claim to replenish bodily fluids. However, those drinks have a negative effect on oral health because of high levels of acids and sugar, Katz says, and they are loaded with sodium, which can have a counter-effect to relieving thirst. The best bet is to drink plenty of water before, during and after participating in activities, particularly outdoor activities.
“Kids want to have fun during the summer and they should be able to,” Katz says. “But they may need a little nudging from their parents to make sure they don’t get so caught up in fun that they let their brushing, flossing and rinsing routines fall by the wayside.”