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Getting Your Child’s Dental Routine Ready for Back to School

Child doing work in school

As school buses start making their routes and the weather begins to cool, it’s time to prepare for a new school year. For some, that means going to bed earlier or catching up on last-minute summer reading. Additionally, when gearing up on school supplies, parents should consider a trip to the dentist as part of their back-to-school preparation.

While it is more common to include an appointment with a pediatrician in your child’s back-to-school checklist, keeping their dental health in mind is vital. Data from the National Health Interview Survey published in 2021 shows a declining trend when it comes to children who have had a dental examination in the past year. The numbers continue to decrease by income as well. The survey found children age 1-17 years from household incomes below 400% of the federal poverty level “were less likely to have had an annual dental examination or cleaning in 2020 than in 2019.”

Dental cleanings and preventative examinations are just as important as annual physicals with a pediatrician. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cited cavities as the U.S.’ “most common chronic disease of childhood.” The dental pain a child may feel can impact their ability to focus and learn, and possibly require them to miss several days of school.

To best prepare your child to succeed, here are a few tips to get your child’s smile ready for the upcoming school year.

  • Help your child brush their teeth. The CDC recommends parents watch and help their kids brush their teeth if they are younger than 6 years old. Parent involvement beyond the age of 6 is also important.
  • Ask your child to brush their teeth after eating an after-school snack. Dentists recommend brushing with fluoride toothpaste to strengthen tooth enamel and prevent tooth decay.
  • Floss your child’s teeth at least once a day. Most children will need assistance with flossing their teeth until the age of 10. Ask your dentist for ways to help your child learn how to floss.
  • Schedule a dental appointment. Make sure to come prepared to the appointment so that you can explain any symptoms your child has or worries you have, so your dentist can best care for them.
  • Prepare your child before their dental appointment. It is common for children to experience anxiety before going to the dentist, so it is recommended that parents explain what a standard appointment entails and what may occur.

If your child attends a Chicago Public School and does not see a dentist elsewhere, you may choose to participate in the school-based program. Please reach out to a school administrator for options or visit CPS’ student health services site here.

The UIC College of Dentistry offers services in comprehensive, urgent, and specialty care. To schedule an appointment, please visit