A child’s ability to learn in school is directly affected by his or her oral health.
That’s according to dental hygienists in the States who are flagging up the connection this month.
Building upon the success of the National Dental Hygiene Month message—Brush, Floss, Rinse, and Chew sugar-free gum—the American Dental Hygienists’ Association emphasises the connection between oral health and a child’s ability to learn to mark February’s National Children’s Dental Health Month (NCDHM).
President, Caryn Solie, RDH, ADHA, says: ‘Children’s oral health has a direct impact on their ability to learn. If children are in pain from toothaches, they are not able to concentrate and focus on the material in class.
‘And if they have to continuously miss school due to dental concerns, they are more likely to fall behind. Emphasising the “brush, floss, rinse, chew” method can help children get into a routine of dental care, because it’s simple and easy to remember.’
According to the US Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, early tooth loss results in impaired speech development, absence from and inability to concentrate in school, failure to thrive and reduced self-esteem.
With tooth decay representing the most chronic disease affecting children, stressing proper oral care falls to parents, no matter how defiant a child gets.
Poor oral health is connected to lower school performance, poor social relationships and less success later in life.
Children experiencing toothaches are distracted and unlikely to score well on tests.
However, they’re also often unable to communicate their pain, even if a teacher notices them having difficulties in class. Some of the side effects of pain are anxiety, fatigue, irritability, depression and withdrawal from normal activities.
Children’s school attendance and performance improve when their dental problems are treated, and they are no longer in pain.
Teaching and accentuating proper oral care can prevent many of these problems for children in school, and serve them better later in life.
Putting emphasis on prevention and proper care can save children the pain of toothache, and avoid the consequences poor oral health can have on their learning. But since children can be rebellious about taking care of their teeth, there are ways to coax them into co-operation.
Parents should plan on helping their children with brushing and flossing for longer. Children don’t have the fine motor skills needed to brush properly until age six, and aren’t able to floss correctly until age 10.
• Schedule brushing, flossing and rinsing at times when your child is not tired.
• Let your child be involved in the process in an age-appropriate way. This could be as simple as letting him or her pick toothpaste from options you approve. You could even let your children pick their toothbrushes, since there are many coloured and decorated options for kids.
• Use positive reinforcement and find out what will motivate your child into brushing and flossing. This may be a sticker or gold stars on a chart, which can also keep them on track.