School’s been out for some time, but the back-to-school enthusiasm still remains. It’s a critical time, after all. In the month following the start of classes, your kids may be busy settling down and getting the hang of their studies. It’s also a time when you’re probably checking that back-to-school checklist for anything amiss. You can add a healthy smile to that list.
The benefits of a healthy mouth are well-documented. For school-aged kids, good oral health can make quite an impact on their school performance. And the effects of a beautiful set of teeth are unmistakable, particularly when you’re out to make a first impression.
What, then, can you and your child do to make sure they’ve got a healthy smile for their first day of school? Here are some things to put on that checklist:
Book an appointment with your child’s pediatric dentist
In a connected world, you’ve probably come across a slew of advice and instructions on how to keep your child’s teeth healthy for school. And it can get overwhelming, especially when some tips seem to contradict the other. Fortunately, there’s a quick way to get to the bottom of it all. Scheduling an appointment with your child’s pediatric dentist can give you a clearer picture of their dental health. During the check-up, their dentist can pinpoint any potential problems and prescribe a routine your kid can follow. If the dentist finds any abnormalities, they can correct them right away before they get worse. This foresight, for example, could save your child from an embarrassing bout of bad breath in school.
Build up a solid dental hygiene foundation
Following the prescription of their pediatric dentist, another way to keep their teeth nice and healthy is to help them build a solid dental hygiene routine. Regular toothbrushing is a sure task on that list, particularly after your child’s meals. Remember that the proper brushing technique is as crucial as how regularly they brush. Experts also encourage flossing before toothbrushing to lessen the plaque on your child’s teeth. And you can feel the difference, too. Nonetheless, it’s a great practice to adopt, which can stop any interdental issues in their tracks.
Pack some tooth-healthy lunches
Diet is as important as maintenance, if not more so. Your child’s best dental health may very much start with what’s in their lunchbox. Be on the lookout for healthy foods for your child’s teeth, and utilize them to create something healthy and nutritious for your little one. You can even turn this into a bonding experience with your children. Before the school week starts, plan out their meals together, and make your creations come to life. However, be wary of any sugary foods or snacks that might sneak their way into their meals. That means no sodas or sweet juices. If you do decide to pack a dessert, make sure that it follows a nice hearty meal.
Use a little mouthwash
Finally, you can help your kids give their oral health a little boost with a travel-sized mouthwash bottle. While it doesn’t cure all dental woes, it certainly can help your kids beat them.
How Oral Health Affects School Performance
But how far does this link go? Farther than you might think. Beyond mere distraction, poor oral health contributes to lower grades and greater school absences among disadvantaged children. This effect goes for both elementary and high school children. But what makes this connection between oral health and school performance? Let’s delve into this deeper.
Chronic Pain Affects Mental Functions
The effect of chronic pain in adults is well-chronicled. Dick and Riddell, in their critical review of Cognitive and school functioning in children and adolescents with chronic pain, note that most research on chronic pain involves adults. More researchers have yet to look into these disruptions in younger children. However, existing studies on the topic have made it clear that kids are as affected cognitively by chronic pain. This effect mainly affects learning.
For one, chronic pain can warp how your child takes in information. In a study by Buodo et al., the researchers found that children who have a history of migraines “experienced attentional disturbance when actively completing tasks and during preattentive processing of information.” Dick and Riddell, who cited this study in their article, noted that this provides further evidence of the relationship between chronic pain and cognitive function.
For another, children with chronic pain may opt to stay at home. This decision eats into their school time. These absences may make it difficult for your child to cope with additional learning material. This difficulty affects their performance in school.
While this goes for any chronic pain, this is especially true for kids with oral health problems. In terms of chronic diseases, cavities are one of the most common oral health conditions in children. Left untreated, they could result in more painful conditions over time. And much like chronic pain, they could take a toll on your child’s performance in school.
Dental Health is a Socioeconomic Concern
As much as we’d like to keep our kids in school, these problems still affect the most vulnerable. In some areas and communities, access to dental care doesn’t come by as easily as others. Some patients might travel great distances just to get to their regular checkups. These distances could put a strain not only on their schedules but on their budgets too. This strain comes particularly if they don’t have their mode of transportation.
Aside from access, however, another problem when it comes to dental care is affordability. While it is as important as getting other modes of healthcare, dental care might come off as more expensive than others, with most people lacking the needed dental insurance.
In this case, poor oral health might serve as an indicator of something else. Aside from chronic pain, children with constant caries might be under duress from the external factors that surround them. It is then essential to consider these factors when looking into the impact of oral health and school performance to gather a clearer picture of its connection.
Visit a Dentist Before School Starts
Before getting caught up in the school year, add a visit to the dentist to your checklist. According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, up to 42 percent of children have cavities in their baby teeth, and 21 percent have them in their permanent teeth.
Despite primary teeth ultimately falling out, it is very vital to ensure they’re healthy. Primary teeth are necessary for the appearance of primary teeth. Having your child’s oral health checked can prevent dental emergencies in the future. If found sooner, dental problems can be treated before they worsen. Addressing your child’s dental needs now will not also call for missed classes, costlier treatments, and longer procedures.
In an article by Blaire Briody for The Fiscal Times, the risks of tooth decay and hospitalization increase when children are not brought to the dentist for routine checkups. Briody cited a report by Pew Center on the States on the total expenses for children’s dental needs in the United States, which reaches an approximate amount of $30.6 billion. However, this huge amount can significantly be lowered if children get their check-ups as soon as possible, said child advocate at the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry Dr. James J. Crall.
Building healthy dental habits will also be helpful to your child’s oral health. Ensure that they know how to take care of their teeth by brushing properly. Children may find brushing boring and may neglect it, so it will be better always to remind them of its benefits. Find ways to make cleaning their teeth a fun time, like through the use of dental applications on your phone.
Also, prepare healthy food for your child. Foods like leafy vegetables, apples, cashews, cheese, and milk are good choices for stronger teeth. Avoid giving your son or daughter candies and other sweets that bacteria can feed on and cause decay.
Simple steps in ensuring the health of your child’s teeth will be fruitful in the future. A back-to-school dental visit will save you time, money, and your child’s painful encounter with dental treatments.