Mother helping her son get ready for school

Keep Your Child’s Eyes and Teeth Healthy this School Year  

As parents, families and caregivers prepare to send their children back to school, it’s a good time to check in with the health of their child’s teeth and eyes.  

Vision Health  

As children grow, their eyesight can change quickly and may develop common vision problems. Left unchecked, vision problems could be mistaken for a learning disability in the classroom as they affect a child’s potential to engage and participate in activities. The increased use of technology and screens by children for learning and entertainment also could put new strain on their eyes. 

Here are some signs of a vision problem to watch for:  

  • An eye turning in or out 
  • Avoiding reading and other close activities 
  • Complaints of discomfort and fatigue 
  • Covering one eye 
  • Difficulty remembering what they’ve read 
  • Frequent eye rubbing or blinking 
  • Frequent headaches 
  • Holding reading materials close to the face 
  • Losing place when reading 
  • Seeing double 
  • Short attention span 
  • Tilting the head to one side 

The beginning of a school year is a perfect opportunity to visit the eye doctor for an annual comprehensive eye exam to set children up for success in school.  

“Often times parents have come in with concerns because their child isn’t engaging in the classroom,” said Tracey Barnes, chief operating officer at Heritage Vision Plans. “When they realize they just needed glasses, the child goes back to school more focused because they can actually participate.” 

Dental Health  

What you pack in your child’s lunch or send as a snack to their sporting event could have a big impact on the health of their teeth.   

“As a parent myself, I cannot help but notice the high sugar snacks that are marketed to parents. These snacks often offer little nutritional value and are loaded with added sugars,” said Dr. Lisa Knowles, associate dental consultant and dental director at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.  

Here are some ways to keep your child’s lunches and snacks delicious and healthy:  

  • Use fresh fruit. Fresh fruit has natural sugars and fiber, which helps slow down the absorption of sugar. This keeps us fuller longer and avoids the “crash” that comes with processed, sugary foods. Try making interesting shapes or presentations with fruit, like using small cookie cutters to make shapes or building a fruit kabob.  
  • Add greens. Offer green vegetables to children during lunchtime. While they might not eat them at first, exposing children to new foods might take as many as seven to 12 tries. Crunchy, fresh green beans, crisp snap peas and avocado slices are great ways to add vitamins and minerals to the lunch box.  
  • Seek out lower sugar drinks. Consider juice pouches with low sugar or pack a water bottle that the child can drink from throughout the day. Many packaged juices, pops and flavored milks have a lot of added sugar and put children at a higher risk for cavities. 
  • Don’t always use sweets as a reward. Try using a new movie, a trip to the pool or a visit to a fun park to treat your children after a big accomplishment.   

Dentists recommend children should come in every six months for a routine cleaning and a dental exam.  

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Photo credit: Getty Images

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