Helping Kids Get a Passing Grade in Oral Health This School Year


GLENDALE, Ariz. (Aug. 15, 2019) - Summer vacation is over and school is back in session! As parents try to reestablish daily routines, they say the biggest challenge is breaking kids of some not-so-healthy habits they may have picked up over the summer. According to Delta Dental’s recent Children’s Oral Health Survey, nearly half of all parents are challenged with getting their kids to practice proper dental care.1

Other findings in the Delta Dental Children’s Oral Health Survey revealed that parents have a much more difficult time getting kids to brush their teeth (46%) than make their beds (29%). The most challenging task for parents to coax their children in to doing was eat their vegetables (48%), followed closely behind by floss their teeth (47%).1 With two essential dental habits (brushing and flossing) topping the chart as the most difficult tasks to get kids to do, it’s easy to see why 64% of Arizona’s third graders have a history of tooth decay.2

Is there hope that oral health habits will improve with age? According to parents, it’s younger children who have the healthiest mouths. When asked to grade the oral health of their kids, 30% of parents with children under 3 years old said their child’s oral health was excellent. 1 As the age of the child increased, their oral health decreased. Only 14% of parents with kids 10-12 years old said their child had excellent oral health. 1 This decline in oral health as kids age may be due to parents giving up control of their child’s brushing and flossing habits over time.

“As a parent, I understand how important it is to ensure my kids have healthy smiles. But I also know that daily routines tend to become more relaxed in summer. Kids stay up later and sometimes forget to floss and brush their teeth before bed,” said Tiffany Di Giacinto, director of marketing and communications at Delta Dental of Arizona. “The new school year is a great time to reset and reestablish good oral health habits.”

Creating healthy smiles is as easy as 1,2,3:


  1. Encourage children to practice good oral hygience habits every day. Brushing gently for 2 minutes with fluoride toothpaste should be part of their morning and bedtime routines, along with flossing at least once per day.
  2. Schedule a back-to-school dental exam and cleaning. Cavities are nearly 100% preventable and regular dental visits can help detect areas of concern before they become painful problems.
  3. Help your child foster a positive relationship with the dentist. If your child is afraid of the dentist or anxious about an upcoming dental exam, try these tips to help them feel more comfortable:
    • Visit the dentist by age 1 An early introduction to the dentist will reinforce a lifelong commitment to oral health and ease fears as children get older.
    • Try music therapy The American Dental Association suggests that patients listen to music in the dentist office as a form of distraction. Call your dentist’s office in advance and make sure they are okay with your child listening to music during their visit to ease anxiety.
    • Use the right language Avoid using phrases like “don’t be afraid” and “stay calm.” Even if used in a positive context, these words can instill fear in your child.
    • Read a book For younger kids, reading books about visiting the dentist can help ease anxiety and position the dentist as a caring advocate rather than someone to be feared.
    • Communicate Talk to your child about the dentist visit. Ask what they liked, what they didn’t like and answer any questions they have. A discussion with the dentist after the appointment may make your child more comfortable. 

For more tips on children’s oral health, visit the Delta Dental of Arizona Blog at


About Delta Dental of Arizona
Delta Dental of Arizona is the leading dental benefits provider in Arizona, serving more than 1 million enrollees and more than 3,400 contracted dentists across the state. Passionate about oral health and its importance to generations of families, Delta Dental of Arizona has worked for more than 45 years to improve oral health by emphasizing preventive care and making dental coverage accessible to a wide variety of employers, groups and individuals. For more information about Delta Dental of Arizona, visit

12019 Delta Dental Children's Oral Health Survey. The survey was conducted by Kelton Global between December 31, 2018, and January 13, 2019, among a nationally representative sample of 1,481 parents of children ages 12 and under. The margin of error is +/- 3%.

22015 Healthy Smiles Healthy Bodies Survey. The survey was conducted by Arizona Department of Health Services with support from First Things First: