School age children have a lot of changes occurring in their mouths. They are beginning to lose teeth at 6 years old, with variations in age, and will continue until approximately 12 years old. The baby teeth are very important in helping the permanent teeth to develop properly. Premature loss of a baby tooth can cause crowding problems. As a pediatric dentist, performing x-rays and an examination allows me to watch the growing upper and lower jaws and erupting (growing in) teeth. If there is a problem, early intervention can help minimize or eliminate future problems.
School age children begin to spend more time away from their parents-after school activities, sports, and friends. This is the time parents begin to lose control of their eating habits. If parents have instilled healthy habits, children will carry these through and continue to make good food/drink choices when away. The biggest insult on kids’ teeth today is the sport and energy drinks, pop, and juices. Not only does the sugar cause cavities, but the citric and phosphoric acid, and carbonation erode the enamel off the teeth. Of course we all have junk food, but it is consuming them in moderation is the lesson to be taught.
A big mistake that parents make is thinking their child is responsible or coordinated enough to thoroughly brush all surfaces of all teeth. They are not! From the ages of 5-8 years old, they should be brushing on their own and parents should be following up on areas that were missed. From 9-12 years old, parents should be checking periodically the thoroughness of brushing and should send a child back to brushing if done poorly. Any type of coloring mouth rinse or tablets to assess the brushing is helpful. This can be used as a check system after brushing or a teaching aide before brushing. Remember good habits in the toddler years will carry over into the school age years if parents continue to enforce them. Don’t get lazy!