Good Oral Health Essential for Child's School (and Lifetime!) Success
Oral disease is a significant health concern at any age, but it is particularly dangerous for children. Developing bodies can be permanently damaged by untreated dental cavities. And the disease has also been proven to impact children’s mental health, and their ability to succeed in school and adult life.
How dental health problems impact kids’ lives
Kids with dental decay are typically tired, anxious, distracted, and restless. They may experience chronic ear and sinus infections. They have a hard time recovering from colds, and are prone to respiratory diseases. The antibiotics and pain medications used to treat their ongoing infections can eventually cause liver damage and antibiotic resistance.
They are often malnourished simply because it hurts to chew. A diet of soft foods doesn’t provide good nutrition and can lead to obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Children with dental disease also have an elevated risk for serious oral health problems throughout their life. Their permanent teeth may be infected, badly misaligned or very fragile.
How many children have tooth decay?
In the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), tooth decay affects:
- About 1 of 5 (20%) children aged 5 to 11 years have at least one untreated decayed tooth.
- 1 of 7 (13%) adolescents aged 12 to 19 years have at least one untreated decayed tooth.
- Children aged 5 to 19 years from low-income families are twice as likely (25%) to have cavities, compared with children from higher-income households (11%).
Treatment of severe tooth decay can cost $10,000 per child and up to $25,000 in severe cases, especially if the child needs to be hospitalized and treated under general anesthesia. The good news is that tooth decay is nearly 100% preventable with regular dental care, good hygiene, and a healthy lifestyle.
How to keep a child’s smile healthy
- Start early – make an appointment with a pediatric or general dentist as soon as you see his or her first tooth, or around the child’s first birthday.
- Continue getting regular preventive care. Also, ask your dentist about dental sealants, which greatly reduce the risk of dental decay.
- Be a role model. Don’t skip your own dental checkups, and take good care of your own teeth.
- Teach older kids to read food labels to check for added sugar and encourage them to make healthier food choices.
- Never ignore toothaches, take the child to the dentist ASAP.
Also, your child’s chance of getting cavities can be higher if:
Family members (older brothers, sisters, or parents) have cavities.
- They eat and drink a lot of sugary foods and drinks, like soda, especially between meals.
- They have special health care needs.
- They wear braces or orthodontics or oral appliances.
The CDC suggests that if any of the above issues apply to your child, “be sure to talk with your dentist, pediatrician, or family doctor to make sure you are taking extra steps to protect your child’s teeth.”
Kids need regular dental care
Consistent at-home oral hygiene can help your kids have healthy, strong smiles throughout their lives. But even kids that are whizzes at brushing and flossing need regular dental checkups and cleanings. Your dentist may also suggest applying sealants to your kids teeth, which can prevent 80% of cavities for 2 years and continue to protect against 50% of cavities for up to 4 years, according to the CDC.
Worried about the cost of dental treatments like sealants and checkups? Consider joining a dental savings plan, which can save plan members 10-60% on most dental procedures from a nationwide network of dentists, including pediatric specialists. Some dental savings plans even include additional health and wellness savings, such as discounts on prescription drugs, hearing, vision, and chiropractic care, as well as telehealth services. Learn more about dental savings plans here.