Poor oral health can impact children’s school success

Kari Brennan visited Meeker preschool students Monday to talk to them about proper oral health care practices. February is National Children’s Dental Health Month. Meredith Deming Photo


Special to the Herald Times

RBC | In light of February being National Children’s Dental Health Month, I’d like to spotlight the facts of how our school aged children and their attendance to school and performance is being impacted negatively due to poor oral hygiene. “Poor oral health, dental disease, and tooth pain can put kids at a serious disadvantage in school,” according to a Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry study.

Delta Dental completed a study in 2015 and the findings are astounding. “More than 30 percent of parents said their children between the ages of 6 and 12 had to miss school due to an oral health issue.”

Several studies noted it is not a problem in just elementary age students but on up through junior high and high school as well. On average, elementary children missed a total of six days per year, and high school children missed 2.6 days. For elementary students, 2.1 days of missed school were due to dental problems and high school students missed 2.3 days due to dental issues. Also, parents missed an average of 2.5 days of work per year to care for the children with dental problems.

After reading several studies, it’s evident that children with poorer oral health status were more likely to experience dental pain, miss school and perform poorly. Simply improving children’s oral health status may enhance their educational experiences. Unfortunately, I see many parents not attending to their children’s needs due to an array of excuses; no insurance, cost, time, uneducated or falsely thinking, “oh, they are just baby teeth, they are going to lose them anyway.” As much as that is true, baby teeth are lost eventually, but they are still very important to take care of.

Many baby teeth are not lost until the average age of 6-12 years old so those teeth are very important and need attention to keep cle an, healthy and preserve the space for the permanent teeth and function for eating, talking etc. Cost and access to care cannot be an excuse any longer. There are getting to be more and more resources and facilities out there to get proper care.

The following list can help maintain oral health:

Brush teeth twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste.

– Brush gently for two minutes with special attention to all surfaces and the gum line.

– Floss, Waterpik and/or interproximal brushing at least once daily.

– Limit sugary snacks, high-starch or refined carbohydrates. Chips, pretzels, cookies, breads and dried fruits. The bacteria that causes tooth decay thrive on simple sugars.

– Limit fruit juice, milk and other sweet/sugary drinks to mealtimes. Between meals and especially at bedtime, drink water, it keeps your mouth hydrated and helps prevent tooth-decay if your community water is fluoridated properly. Meeker does properly fluoridate the water.

– Visit the dentist and dental hygienist at least annually and ideally twice per year for check ups, cleanings and treatment of any issues when they are little issues and easier to treat. Prevention is much easier and cheaper than treatment once the problem presents.

For more information, visit credible places like the American Dental Association website, www.ada.org, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, www.cdc.gov or the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, www.aapd.org. Also, contact White River Dental Hygiene for an appointment to get your child started in the right direction to optimal oral health.

Kari Brennan is the owner of White River Dental Health in Meeker.