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Children with poor oral health were nearly 3 times more likely to miss school due to dental pain, according to a North Carolina study.” –Children’s Dental Health Project

The start of a new school year brings with it a long list of required supplies, but what often gets overlooked in the bustle to find the right folders, binders, and paper, is oral health. There have been numerous studies on the effects oral health can have on a child’s performance in school. In fact,

Children reporting recent toothaches were 4 times as likely to have a lower grade-point average than peers reporting no dental pain” (cdhp.org).

This indicates the importance of good oral health for children of all ages.

What can parents do to ensure their child’s oral health?

At the top of the list is scheduling regular dental check-ups with your local dentist every 6 months. If your child hasn’t been to the dentist yet this year, take advantage of these last few days before school starts to make an appointment. At Smiles Dental’s family friendly offices, we recommend beginning your child’s dental visits around the age of 2. Starting early allows children to feel more comfortable and relaxed at the dentist, leading to reduced dental anxiety as they get older. It also improves the dental health of your child as the dentist is able to catch potential bad habits before they develop into costly dental health problems. Find a Smiles Dental location near you and ask about our treatment planning options for you and your family.

Parents can also begin working with children to teach good dental care habits at home from an early age. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, parents can:

  • Be a role model by preparing and eating regular nutritious meals and avoiding frequent between-meal snacking. 
  • Protect their child’s teeth with fluoride by purchasing and using a fluoride toothpaste.
  • Talk to their dentist about dental sealants, which protect baby (and grown-up) teeth from decay.

(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Oral Health)

How does diet affect oral health?

A well-balanced diet is necessary for your child to develop strong, decay-resistant teeth” (Colgate). Most dentists recommend a diet high in minerals and vitamins, calcium, and fluoride to ensure healthy teeth and gums. They also strongly recommend avoiding sugary, processed snacking between meals. Snacks such as potato chips, cookies, and soft drinks contain a high level of sugars and starches that combine with plaque on teeth to create acids that rapidly increase the tooth decay process. Instead of these kinds of snacks, healthier options are recommended such as fresh fruits and vegetables. Apples and celery are great snack foods that also help to naturally clean teeth. For more Tooth-Friendly Treat options, visit this Pinterest board.

Providing your child with the healthy habits that lead to good oral health at a young age will help ensure their overall health as they get older. Maintaining oral health helps children perform better in school and enhances their education and learning. This year, resolve to teach your child the importance of dental health and make an appointment for them to see your local dentist regularly.

Sources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Children’s Oral Health.” http://www.cdc.gov/OralHealth/children_adults/child.htm. Accessed 25 August 2014.

Children’s Dental Health Project. “The State of Dental Health.” https://www.cdhp.org/state-of-dental-health/schoolandbeyond. Accessed 25 August 2014.

Colgate. “Oral Health for Children.” http://www.colgate.com/app/CP/US/EN/OC/Information/Articles/Oral-and-Dental-Health-at-Any-Age/Infants-and-Children/Toddler-Child-Transitional-Care/article/Oral-Health-for-Children.cvsp. Accessed 25 August 2014.

Medline Plus. “Child Dental Health.” http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/childdentalhealth.html. Accessed 25 August 2014.