Backpack. Pens and pencils. Organizers and notebooks. New first day outfit and shoes, too. And, because you’re so on top of it, you’ve even made an appointment for your child’s annual physical.

Sounds like everything your child will need to be prepared to go back to school, right? Not so fast. There is still a very important item could be missing from your back-to-school list: a dental check-up.

Dental disease, commonly known as tooth decay, is the most common chronic childhood disease. It is five times more common than asthma, yet it often goes untreated resulting in cavities, pain and infection. The good news is that dental disease is also almost 100 percent preventable with continued attention to oral health care. Dental check-ups are crucial for identifying risks and preventing more serious problems of tooth decay and gum disease from developing. Your child’s dentist can identify early signs of diseases beyond cavities, like diabetes and vitamin deficiencies. A dentist can also determine whether your child is at risk for cavities and suggest preventive measures like sealants on molars or fluoride varnish protection.

At home, you can help your child protect his or her teeth throughout the school year with a few simple tips:

• Make brushing and flossing a twice-daily event – in the morning before your child heads to school and as the last activity before going to bed. Good oral health is an important part of a child’s overall well being, especially as the teeth are developing.

• When packing a child’s lunch, cut down on sugary juices, sports drinks, and sodas. Sugar and acid in these drinks can eat away the tooth’s enamel and make the tooth more vulnerable to decay.

• If your child participates in a school sport, make sure he or she wears a properly fitted mouth guard. According to the American Dental Association, sports-related injuries knock out two million teeth per year.

• Remember that bottled water doesn’t have tooth decay fighting fluoride. If your town’s drinking water is fluoridated, you can save money, and the environment, by skipping the bottled water and purchasing a water bottle to hold tap water.

Most importantly, schedule a back to school appointment with your child’s dentist. Start a positive tradition that will last his or her entire life. Your child should leave the dentist’s office with a new toothbrush, a sticker and a brighter smile. And you will walk away with peace of mind, knowing you have a full picture of your child’s overall health and that your son or daughter is truly ready to start the new school year.


Dr. Linda Vidone is the Dental Director of Delta Dental of Massachusetts.