Dental Health Linked to Academic Performance and Overall Health

Dental Health Linked to Academic Performance and Overall Health

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Oral health is more than just having a pretty smile. It is a big part of overall health and wellness.

In an ideal world, all children would have access to preventive and treatment-based dental care. But the reality is that oral health issues are prevalent in our children and can become a distraction in the classroom, causing them to fall behind in school.

Researchers studied the relationship between dental care and academic performance, and findings show that oral care has a significant impact on school experiences, which affect attendance and grades.

Escambia Children’s Trust has deemed dental services as one of the biggest health crisis facing young people in Escambia County. ECT’s Needs Assessment report to be released on Sept. 22, showed that oral health among children in Escambia County took a turn for the worse after the pandemic. Nearly half – 44.7 percent – of children between ages 12 to 19, did not see a dentist in 2020, according to the latest report in the Florida Health Charts. In 2018, only 22 percent of students in that same age group never visited the dentist, the report said.

Community Health Northwest Florida is a major provider of pediatric care in Escambia County and the only dental provider for the Medicaid and uninsured population in its service area.

To expand dental care to reach more children, Community Health is seeking a matching grant from Escambia Children’s Trust. If the $72,837 grant request is approved, the return from the state will be $195,000 to use toward the dental care of Community Health’s pediatric patients.

Studies show a link between poor oral health and diabetes, heart and lung disease, stroke, respiratory illnesses and adverse birth outcomes, including the delivery pre-term and low birth weight infants.

Evidence has shown that collaborative partnerships among communities, healthcare providers and government agencies are vital to meet oral health needs in Escambia County. 

The proposed $72,837 grant would offset the cost to repair and update Community Health’s dental van to have adequate equipment to serve 124 more students per week.

Getting additional funding from the proposed grant will give Community Health Northwest Florida means to expand services to see that more children can develop good oral health habits and seek preventive care for a better school year and a brighter, healthier smile.

Dental Quick Facts: 

Children with poor oral health are more likely to miss school. A 2011 study found that Children with poor oral health status were nearly 3 times more likely than were their counterparts to miss school as a result of dental pain. Absences caused by pain were associated with poorer school performance, but absences for routine care were not.  According to one study published in the American Journal of Public Health, on average, elementary children miss a total of 6 days per year, and 2.1 days of missed school were due to dental problems.

Poor oral health is impacting a large portion of children, especially poor children. According to the CDC, by age 8, over half of children (52%) have had a cavity in their primary (baby) teeth. Children from low-income families are twice as likely to have cavities as children from higher-income families.

Poor oral health lowers test scores and makes learning to read difficult. These children are four times more likely to have a lower grade point average. This also includes parents who missed an average of 2.5 days of work per year to care for children with dental problems. Too many absences related to dental pain can cause children to miss a critical time in their lives where reading and writing skills start to become a focus.

Orthodontics is also linked to good health. Children should visit an orthodontist by the age of seven to assess potential tooth and jaw problems. Early orthodontic treatment is advantageous because a young child’s teeth have not finished erupting, which allows orthodontists to guide the growth of facial and jawbones to address any problems at the earliest stage possible.

More about the importance of Children’s Dental Health at