How To Help Your Child Adjust Their Sleep Schedule for School

In the summer, children and teen’s bedtimes tend to become more lax. Now, as school has started, it’s important to establish bedtimes and bedtime routines to ensure that your children get the rest they need to do their best in school.

Here are five tips to help children establish a back-to-school sleep routine:

  • A bath or shower, followed by a story helps grade school children and younger to relax into sleep.

  • Make sure your child flosses and brushes their teeth before bed. See my tips on toothbrush choices here.

  • For older children, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all screens be turned off at least one hour before bedtime so teens have time to wind down. 

  • If school bedtime is much different from summer bedtime, gradually shift bedtime, putting your kids to bed 15 minutes earlier each night..

Why Sleep Matters

Researchers have found that kids need much more sleep than adults to support their growth and development. Pre-schoolers should get 10 to 13 hours of sleep a day, grade-schoolers should get nine to 12 hours and teens should sleep eight to 10 hours, according to a 2017 study published in 2017 in Academic Pediatrics. This may not appear realistic, but it is a guideline. Try sleeping on it. 

Kids who don’t get enough sleep — even an hour or so less than recommended — may have trouble paying attention, sitting still or keeping their emotions in check at school, sleep psychologist Lisa J. Meltzer, an associate professor of pediatrics at National Jewish Health in Denver, told USA Today. 



It's Back to School Dental Checkup Time!

Make sure your child’s smile makes the grade!

Back to school is just around the corner and getting your child ready is always a mad dash. While you’re planning, be sure to make an appointment with your pediatric dentist for a dental checkup. 

There are several good reasons to schedule your child’s dental checkup before the first day of school.

Dr Sara Pediatric Dentist Back to School Checkup.png
  1. New York City requires a dental checkup as part of a complete physical exam for every child starting school or daycare for the first time.

  2. A checkup can detect hidden problems. Nearly one in five school-age children has untreated tooth decay. A checkup can detect a small problem before it progresses to the point where it can interfere with eating, speaking, sleeping and learning.

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 42% of children ages two to 11 have had cavities in baby teeth; 21% of  those ages six to 11 have had cavities in permanent teeth.

  3. Your child’s mouth and jaw may have changed considerably as a result of the many growth spurts that take place over the summer.

  4. Did you know that a correlation between oral infections and diabetes, asthma, heart disease and obesity has been identified? 

  5. Dental problems can impede your child’s learning. According to a study in The American Journal of Public Health, children with poorer oral health status were more likely to experience dental pain, miss school, and perform poorly in school. These findings suggest that improving children's oral health status may be a vehicle to enhancing their educational experience.

  6. Get children’s oral health habits back on track. Children tend to slack off with their oral hygiene routine during the summer. A checkup can help them get back to good oral care habits that lead to a healthy smile.

  7. Your child can be fitted for a mouthguard at the checkup. I consider wearing a mouthguard mandatory in contact and collision sports like football, lacrosse, boxing, wrestling, basketball, hockey, and soccer. 

    A mouthguard can also prevent injury in non-contact sports, such as bicycling, skating, skateboarding and gymnastics. Hits to the face in those sports may be accidental, but they are just as damaging. 

    Without a mouthguard, common injuries include chipped or broken teeth, root damage, fractured crowns or loss of an entire tooth or teeth, lip and cheek injuries, fractured jaws, and concussions. Prevention is the key!

    Without a mouthguard, common injuries include chipped or broken teeth, root damage, fractured crowns or loss of an entire tooth or teeth, lip and cheek injuries, fractured jaws, and concussions. Prevention is the key!

How Crocodiles Brush Their Teeth

Crocodiles can’t brush or floss their teeth. So they get birds to do it for them.

Crocodiles can’t chew. They can only bite, tear and gulp food. So a lot of food gets stuck in their teeth. That attracts parasites, bacteria and leeches. And those can lead to toothaches and sore gums.


When crocodiles need their teeth cleaned they know just what to do. They beach themselves and open their mouth wide and stay very still. They stay like that until plover birds come along. Brave little plovers actually hop into the croc’s mouth and set about pulling food scraps and parasites out of their teeth. 

It’s a big win for both. The crocodile gets its teeth cleaned and the birds get a free dinner.

Learn more about flossing your child’s teeth here.

What Parents Need to Know About Baby Teeth

Parents ask me why they should care about baby teeth since they will fall out anyway.

Baby TEETH Artwork by  AUSTEN J.B.

Baby TEETH Artwork by AUSTEN J.B.

Baby teeth are important to your child’s physical, emotional and social development. And, if your child’s baby teeth are not kept healthy, the permanent teeth will be more susceptible to cavities and dental problems forever.

Baby teeth can get cavities. Large cavities and abscesses in baby teeth establish a bacterial petri dish affecting the eruption of permanent teeth.

Baby teeth are placeholders, saving space for properly aligned adult teeth. Permanent teeth develop and grow underneath baby teeth until they’re ready to break through the gums.

You might be surprised to learn that you should start caring for your child’s teeth while they’re still in the womb! My published paper shows that the mother’s diet during pregnancy influences the child’s life-long taste preference for sweets. That preference can lead to poor oral health beginning in infancy.

You can find more information about the importance of baby teeth here.

Flossing Tips for Parents of Toddlers



Until the age of six or seven, children don’t have the manual dexterity to floss or brush their teeth properly. Here are some tips on how you can help.

1) When teeth are not contacting one another, then simple brushing by the parent will do.

2) Flossing should begin only when the teeth make contact with one another. 

3) When teeth erupt and make contact with one another, (i.e., no large spaces between teeth), then the parent or caregiver must do the flossing for the toddler. 

4) Many products make flossing easier. We can help you find the right one for your child.

5) We are happy to review these techniques with our family of patients at our child-friendly Upper East Side office.