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As you are preparing to send your child off to college making lists, travel arrangements, picking dorm room décor and linens; the first list is practical. As parents, we pride ourselves on getting our kids ready to leave the nest and soar on their own. But then reality sets in and you pause and reflect on time that has passed and question if you have prepared them enough to be self sufficient and independent. No need to beat yourself up now. Just use this summer to teach a few of life’s basic skills—and save yourself some panicky late-night calls, not to mention feelings of parental inadequacy. Though teaching them how to cook a few simple meals, do laundry, banking and how to navigate public transportation are important skills. Self-care will enable your child to care for and about their health in the midst of their new demanding schedules.

Here are some practical tools to set them up for success.  Educating them on their oral health is the most important step. Once they have that foundation they better understand that their Oral health is important for their overall health.

(Taking Responsibility for Self-Care)

  • First consideration-Preventative care; seeing their hygienist and dentist before leaving for school to have a professional teeth cleaning. Performing diagnostic tests will provide the opportunity to identify a health risk (heart burn, drug use, sleep disorder, oral cancer, HPV, diabetes, heart disease) X-rays can identify if any decay is present allowing for early intervention and treatment.
  • Minimizing exposures to dietary sugars
  • Simple steps for recommended daily oral hygiene practices (electric brush, floss)

(Knowing When and How to seek Help)

  • Educating your child and informing them that bacterial transmission can occur from sharing a toothbrush, fork and kissing. The human papillomavirus, or HPV is a sexually transmitted disease that is easily spread and often goes undetected. It is widely known for its association to cervical cancer but it is also now one of the leading causes of oral cancer.
  • Injury prevention and the harm from soda and energy drinks as well as from using tobacco products and other drugs. Tobacco use and drinking are the biggest risk factors for tooth loss due to decay and gum disease along with causing oral cancer.

(Managing Time)

  • In order to make prevention an attainable goal, provide your college student with the organizational skills to call and schedule their own appointment, as they are now in charge of their own schedule. Help them to be accountable and call to reschedule their own appointment if they are unable to make it. This will not only give them a sense of pride entering into adulthood but also control in their health management.
  • Regular dental care visits for periodic assessments and preventive service

(Stock them up with the tools they need for good oral hygiene)

  • Giving them a full year’s supply of toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss or other aids to clean between the teeth, and mouth rinse is ideal.
  • Send sugar free gum with xylitol as well, it can help prevent cavities and some studies show it can help concentration while studying for tests!
  • Provide them with fluoride supplements; and Oral probiotics

(Send them a friendly reminder)

  • Once upon a time you tucked love notes into their lunchbox or texted a reminder message to them. Everyone loves to receive a care package. Send them a health care replenish package.

The mouth is the gateway to the body so keeping the mouth healthy is positive for your whole well being. Your young adult will thank you for the information and care to help them keep their smiles healthy.  Even if they do not say it now, they will later!