Connecting Oral Health to Student Success

As a parent getting ready to send your child back to school, you’ve likely purchased new clothes and school supplies, but have you thought about your child’s teeth? Parents are usually surprised to learn that their child can support their journey toward academic success by simply keeping up with a daily oral health routine.

Poor Oral Health = Poor Grades

Oral health issues continue to raise concerns as they can become a distraction to kids in the classroom, causing them to fall behind in coursework. Several dentists have studied the relationship between dental care and academic performance, and findings concluded that oral care has a significant impact on school experiences, which affect attendance and grades.

According to one study published in the American Journal of Public Health, on average, elementary children miss a total of 6 days per year, and 2.1 days of missed school were due to dental problems. These children are four times more likely to have a lower grade point average. This also includes parents who missed an average of 2.5 days of work per year to care for children with dental problems. Too many absences related to dental pain can cause children to miss a critical time in their lives where reading and writing skills start to become a focus.

Raising Grades and Smiles

Many parents have a tough time judging how much dental care their child needs. It can be especially difficult when children are shy about dental discomfort, especially if they fear they will be in trouble for their behavior. A child may fear that he/she will get in trouble for not brushing his teeth, and may be more hesitant to tell his/her parents about their oral pain. Some children may not understand why they don’t feel well and might not know exactly how to communicate their discomfort. It is easy for parents to overlook their child’s discomfort when a child does not or cannot express they are in pain.

To avoid pain or discomfort, scheduling frequent teeth cleanings and checkups is recommended, as tooth decay can be hard to detect for most parents. Ultimately, having a healthy smile can help improve kids’ concentration and performance in the classroom and may help reduce school absences. The American Dental Association advises parents to make dental exams a regular part of their back-to-school routine along with sports physicals, health exams and necessary immunizations. If a child has decay, it is crucial that the problem is treated effectively to avoid any further discomfort or disease.

During a professional cleaning and oral exam, a dentist will remove plaque bacteria from teeth to help fix early decay. Dentists can also advise parents about effective preventive measures for children’s teeth, such as the use of sealants and fluoride, and brushing and flossing techniques.

Adopt Oral Health Habits at Home

Left untreated, oral health issues can quickly develop into tooth decay, periodontitis, and tooth loss. To keep children healthy and happy, it is extremely important for parents to teach their children good oral hygiene habits and to schedule regular dental appointments. The following tips will start your child on the path to a healthy smile at a young age.

  • Children should brush their teeth twice a day for at least two minutes each time.
  • Once any two teeth are touching, children’s teeth should be flossed once a day.
  • Limit sugary and starchy foods, but if consumed, have them during mealtimes when more saliva is produced to wash away bacteria from teeth.
  • By a child’s first tooth or first birthday, a child should establish a dental home and visit the dentist regularly.
  • Parents can consider reading fun books about oral health habits, including visiting the dentist, to reinforce why it’s important for kids to take good care of their teeth.

School can be less challenging without having to deal with dental problems. Help your child have a great school year and even better school picture by developing good oral health habits early and seeking preventive care for a brighter, healthier smile.

Sources: American Dental Association, American Journal of Public Health

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