If you have kids, you probably have spent some time in the last few weeks shopping for school supplies. Maybe you’re a scour the adds, clip the coupons, find the absolute best prices, hit the stores like you’re hitting the beaches at Normandy type of school shopper. Maybe, you prefer to fill out the form from the school and have a kit of supplies assembled and sent to your school, ready to be picked up and labeled for a set price. Maybe you’re a technology lover who used a shopping app to have your supplies collected and delivered from your favorite shop—online or nearby.
In all your school shopping, did you spend a few minutes shopping for oral care supplies to start your family’s school year off strong? If your child needed a dental exam to start the school year, maybe you’re already thinking about your child’s oral health. If you need any further incentive to add a shiny new toothbrush to your shopping cart, consider how much oral health can impact school performance while you consider how well your children are doing maintaining good oral health.
Dental issues are serious health concerns. Like other serious health concerns, they appear to have a negative impact on school performance and school attendance. A study done at University of Southern California’s Dental School found a correlation between dental disease and worse academic performance. Specifically, children with tooth pain were 4 times more likely to have a low grade point average (below 2.8) than children without tooth pain.
The USC study also found that elementary and high school students were missing about 2 days of school each year due to dental problems and that parents were missing about 2.5 days of work each year to care for children’s dental health problems. Children who have lower access to care suffer more days of lost school than children who did not have trouble accessing regular dental care. Data gathered from the National Children’s Oral Health Survey by Delta Dental Plans Association supports the USC findings. They found parents reported approximately 30% of 6 to 12-year-old children nationwide missed school due to an oral health problem.
As a parent, you know you are your child’s first teacher. This is certainly true of oral health care habits. As children age, parents worry more about the quality of the care children take of their own teeth. While just under a third of parents rate their children’s oral health excellent while children are under 3, by the time children are between 10 and 12 years old, that number falls to 14% of parents who still consider their child’s oral health excellent. 71% percent of parents report worrying about their children’s oral health daily, more than the number of parents who worry about their child’s grades daily.
So, what can you, as a parent, do to alleviate those worries about your child’s oral health, especially given that tooth decay is altogether too common a childhood disease? Most importantly, you can encourage and model great oral care habits. Twice a day brushing and at least once a day flossing are the most important day to day habits to foster in your children and in your own life. If your children get bored easily or have trouble keeping at it for two minutes, consider using one of the many toothbrush timing and tracking apps to keep them engaged with good brushing habits.
Make sure your toothbrush is in good shape to receive the greatest benefits from your time brushing. The ADA recommends a new brush every 3-4 months or when the bristles start to bend. Use a fluoride toothpaste or gel, and consider a remineralizing product to keep tooth enamel strong. Limit snacking between meals to keep oral pH in the healthy range, and do not offer sugary drinks or fruit juice instead of plain water for children and for yourself. Most of all, make and keep dental appointments for your children, and let them see you making your own appointments a priority. Your children will do what they see you doing.
In your efforts to make sure your children have everything they need for a great school year, make sure you carve out a moment to care for their oral health needs. It’s one thing you can do to make the school year brighter and more successful for your family.