It’s time to send your pre-teen or teen away for summer camp. You’re probably hoping they eat well, get enough sleep, shower regularly, use soap, and write to you every day. And, you hope that they practice good dental hygiene while they’re having a fun, safe, and memorable summer.
In addition to brushing and flossing, you want them to care for their braces, retainer, or Invisalign® aligners, and if they have removable appliances, you really hope your kids don’t lose them.
To help prepare your kids for summer camp — without your nudging or nagging — Dr. Navin Hukmani and the Lansdowne Orthodontics team suggest reviewing the following guidelines with your kids to coax them into taking good care of their teeth while they’re away from you.
What to Pack
Pack a couple of toothbrushes, toothpaste, dental floss and prophy brushes for those wearing appliances. Again, for those with braces, packing orthodontic wax is always a good idea in case your kids experience some discomfort when they’re away. And lastly, pack a mouthguard to protect their orthodontics appliance while they’re playing sports. If your child wears a retainer, pack two storage cases as an extra case is frequently needed. Labeling the retainer case with the child’s name and/or contact number may be helpful if the case is misplaced or lost. Some cases may be attached to a lanyard or hook to attach to a backpack or shoulder bag.
Review with your orthodontist prior to summer camp or vacation, the recommendations for appliances, aligner or retainer use. Your orthodontist may recommend that aligners or retainers not be used during swimming, rugged activities or games with a great deal of physical contact. Mouthguards may be the better choice for rugged activities or games with potential of injury to the mouth. Mouthguards must be worn by patients with metal orthodontic appliances during any physical activity that may cause an injury to the mouth. A mouthguard may prevent or minimize the effects of a concussion or serious injury to the teeth, lips, cheeks, gums and tongue that may require a trip to the ER.
Your kids should know these guidelines by now, but it is helpful to go over them and maybe even write them down before they leave for summer camp.
Brush after every meal and snack to keep braces or appliances clean and free of food and debris. Flossing is always a little more challenging but prophy brushes may make it easier than threading dental floss.
For those wearing a retainer, encourage your child to wear it every night. After removing the retainer, brush it and store it safely in the retainer case. Suggest your child secure the retainer case where it will not be tossed away by anyone. They may wish to secure the retainer case with a hook or strap to a toiletry bag to help them remember to put it on at night or hook the retainer case to the inside of the backpack.
For those with Invisalign aligners, brush and rinse them before putting them back in your mouth after you have brushed your teeth.
Foods to Avoid When Wearing Braces
- Chewy foods such as bagels, caramels, or granola bars
- Sticky foods like chewing gum and gummy bears
- Hard foods such as corn chips, candies or nuts
- Food that you bite into like corn on the cob, carrots or apples (cut food into small pieces)
Limit sugary snacks and drinks (no Bug Juice) and always rinse mouth with clear water after eating when toothbrushing is not possible.
Be sure your children know what a dental or orthodontic emergency is and where they should go to get help. Usually, the camp’s nurse can help with minor issues or can contact you if a situation requires emergency treatment.
An orthodontic emergency can be:
- A loose tooth or appliance
- A loose or broken wire or band
- A protruding wire
- Mouth sores
- A lost retainer
What Parents Can Do
Get in touch with camp counselors and the camp’s nurse before sending your children off to camp and review what you expect of your kids regarding care of their braces, retainer, or Invisalign aligners. Ask the camp staff to keep an eye out and maybe do a bit of nudging themselves if they notice your kids are slacking off on oral health care.
If the counselors or nurse notice a problem, they should contact you. Feel free to include some reminders about good oral health habits in your letters to your children — after you tell them you love and miss them, of course.