Parents’ Guide to Children’s Oral Health in School Years
Most of the guidance parents receive about taking care of their children’s teeth, gums, and mouth is focused on the earlier years. This is partially because parents are still highly involved in younger kids’ oral hygiene, including helping them brush and floss properly. However, when it comes to children’s oral health in school years after elementary school, parents sometimes lose track of the importance of dental care for children. The importance of adolescent dental care doesn’t stop once your children are done with junior high and high school either. The transition from young child to young adult is fraught with more than a few challenges to optimal dental health.
So why is oral health important beyond maintaining a clean and healthy mouth? While ensuring a healthy mouth should be reason enough, it’s also important to know that your child’s oral health can impact nearly every other facet of their well being. Dr. Kami Hoss, founder of The Super Dentists and Howard Healthcare Academy & Acceledontics, recently conducted a study that shows some surprising data about children’s dental health during their school years and beyond.
Dental Health and Your Child’s Education
Your child’s oral health can affect their life in a number of different ways, including their academic success. Wondering how? Let’s take a look at some key statistics about how school-age children are impacted by oral health academically and what parents can do to promote healthy self-care protocols into adulthood and beyond.
Oral Health to Student Success
Regular school attendance is imperative for a positive academic experience, and poor oral health can have a detrimental impact on children’s attendance. In the US, 51 million school hours are missed because of oral health issues. In our survey, nearly 7% of parents affirmed that their children’s oral health impacts school attendance.
Children with poor oral health suffer from pain, lack of sleep, lack of nutrition when they can’t eat nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables, and lack of focus. Worse, studies have shown pain caused by poor oral health may also cause absences that contribute to poorer school performance as well. Absences for routine oral care, on the other hand, were not shown to impact school performance.
Have you ever wondered, “Can a tooth infection make you sick?” It can, and poor oral health can also contribute to physical illnesses, including pneumonia and other respiratory diseases, which in turn lead to more absences.
It’s clear that good oral health care can help ensure your child remains at school, focused, and doing their best work. Supporting children’s dental health is one of the building blocks of a healthy, productive childhood!
Dental Screening Requirements
The importance of dental care for children seems obvious, yet not all states require dental screenings prior to starting school. In fact, most states do NOT require a dental screening exam; only 14 states currently have the requirement in place.
From the parents we surveyed, 14% reported that their children had not received an oral health screening exam before starting school. Still, even if your state doesn’t require a school screening, Dr. Hoss recommends a dental visit before starting school. This checkup is covered by most insurance plans and can be done as part of the child’s regular dental checkup and cleaning.
Creating Your Child’s Oral Health Routine
While nearly half of parents (46%) surveyed understood the importance of early childhood dental care, these sentiments don’t always translate to healthy oral health care habits for their children later on. More than 10% of parents we asked said their child doesn’t even brush their teeth once per day. Only 17% confirmed their children are brushing twice daily. Flossing had similarly mixed results. More than half of parents surveyed (53%) said their children don’t floss on a regular basis.
Creating and maintaining a regular oral routine is essential to ongoing and effective oral hygiene. Here are some recommendations for the best possible pediatric oral hygiene at home.
Adopt oral health habits at home
Maintaining excellent oral health starts at home, and as a parent, you will instill the importance of dental care for children in your child. Start by modeling excellent oral hygiene for your kids. Brush twice per day and floss daily, making sure your children can see you participating in the same oral health habits you expect from them. In addition, see your dentist regularly, too, so that your kids know this is a normal part of anyone’s oral care routine. Modeling these oral health habits helps to normalize them for your kids. Plus, you probably won’t have to fight about brushing and flossing as often! Win!
The Best Dental Care Routine for Your Child
Your children’s oral health in school years begins well before they start school. For your child’s first-ever trip to the dentist, it’s a good idea to schedule the first visit when the first tooth appears. If the first tooth hasn’t erupted by 12 months, have your child see the dentist shortly after their first birthday.
Start brushing early
The appearance of that first tooth is important in another key element of pediatric dental care. That’s when you should start teaching your child how to brush their teeth. Lead by example brushing together and make it fun. Before you know it, tooth brushing will be a regular part of their bedtime routine!
Keep the habit
In terms of frequency, help your children brush at least twice each day for two minutes. Make sure to use a toothpaste that’s safe for your child’s age and tell your child not to swallow the toothpaste. This can be a real challenge for children younger than 2 years old, so use a rice-sized amount of toothpaste before age 2 to be safe. From ages 3 to 6, you can start using a pea-sized portion of toothpaste and practice spitting properly.
While they’re getting used to brushing, go ahead and introduce flossing as soon as your child has two teeth that touch. It’s recommended you floss with your child each night before bed. Point out that floss reaches places that toothbrushes simply can’t reach. Make sure you teach your child how to get the most from flossing by hugging the tooth with their floss and ensure they use extra care and caution along the gumline to prevent bleeding.
Choosing Your Child’s Pediatric Dentist
Given all this data from our parent survey, it’s clear that choosing the right pediatric dentist goes a long way to ensure optimal oral health. So what do parents look for in a pediatric dentist?
Half of survey respondents said the most important factor is insurance acceptance. Other popular responses included:
- Friendly communication (44% of respondents)
- Comprehensive family care included (32% of respondents)
- Pediatric specialty services (29% of respondents)
- Minimal wait times (28% of respondents)
- Cutting-edge technology (26% of respondents)
- Payment plans for out-of-pocket premiums (24% of respondents)
- Positive reviews/community feedback (23% of respondents)
Dr. Kami Hoss, founder of The Super Dentists, Howard Healthcare Academy & Acceledontics, is one of the foremost experts on pediatric dental and orthodontic care. If you’re interested in learning more about your children’s oral health in school years and after, Dr. Hoss’s website is a comprehensive resource of oral healthcare knowledge. You’ll find interviews and articles, social media posts, and a variety of articles and helpful resources to help you support your kids’ oral healthcare (and your own!). As Dr. Hoss’s above study and the resulting statistics show, he is keenly aware of the strong links between oral healthcare and overall well being.
Learn More About Oral Health
As a result of his considerable knowledge and expertise, Dr. Hoss has written a book calling for more collaboration between medical and dental care experts to promote optimal whole-body health. If Your Mouth Could Talk, forthcoming in April 2022, connects the dots between oral health and overall wellbeing to foster a more all-inclusive approach to patient care. The book has received advanced praise from some of the leading figures in medical and oral healthcare, and is one of the most anticipated releases of 2022.
If you pre-order If Your Mouth Could Talk before it hits bookstores, you’ll get over $100 in free bonus gifts. In addition to the book, you’ll receive a free copy of Dr. Hoss’s ebook, The Surprising Link Between Oral Health and COVID-19, along with an oral health starter kit, $25 gift card to The Super Dentists, and five entries to the Padres All-Access Contest. Pre-order today!
Read more about what parents may not know about their children’s early oral health in the first part of this series—Getting Started.