Effects of Dental Care on Education

Is your child not doing well in school? Parents usually turn to tutors or computer programs designed to improve classroom performance- but have you checked their teeth? A study published in the American Journal of Public Health in 2012 found that poor oral health, dental disease and tooth pain can all affect how a child does in school, adding academic performance to the list of things that can be impacted by dental health.

Recently, the Contra Costa Times, a California news source, published an article further explaining how children’s teeth may influence how they do in school.

Thinking of the future
According to the news source, dental advocates across the state have been working together to come up with a plan for how to extend access to dental care to all children. Dentists have gone so far as to say that dental disease is at “epidemic” levels among California children.

“The issue is huge,” Gordon Jackson, director of the state’s Department of Education’s Coordinated Student Support and Adult Education Division, told the Contra Costa Times. This group oversees health, counseling and other support programs provided at schools. “Tooth decay remains one of the most chronic diseases for children and adolescents. As we’re having the conversation about California’s future and student academic achievement, we have to have a conversation about oral health as well.”

The news source also spoke to dental hygienist, Linda Cannon, who screens for tooth decay, cleans teeth and applies fluoride varnish and sealants to children at local schools.  She said that she often sees kids whose teeth look as though they have never seen the inside of a dental office before. Of the nearly 400 kids she examined in the past two years, nearly three-quarters of those in elementary school and half of middle schoolers were showing signs of tooth decay.

The Contra Costa Times added that dental issues cost California schools $30 million in attendance-based funding each year due to so many kids missing school because of dental pain. Because of this, schools have vested an interest in improving the health of children’s teeth and getting kids back into the classroom.

Signs of trouble 
It’s important for you to spot early signs dental problems in your child before they escalate. The American Academy of Periodontology states that you should examine your child’s mouth to see if he or she has gums that are red, swollen or receding from the teeth, all of which are signs of gum disease. Furthermore, if your child reports that their gums bleed while brushing or flushing, it’s time to head to the dentist.

Make sure to establish good dental health habits early on and take your child to the dentist when their first tooth appears, or by age 1, whichever comes first. Also, serve as a good role model by brushing and flossing regularly and talking about the dentist in a positive tone so that your child is not afraid of the idea of going to a dental health professional. Studies have shown that parents pass a fear of the dentist onto their kids, so keep that in mind next time you want to roll your eyes when the dentist is mentioned.

We may not realize how important our children’s dental care affects other aspects of their lives. Is your school district doing their part? Let us know in your comments below!

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