Chances are, your kids aren’t looking forward to going back to school this fall. And if there’s something they like less than going to school, it’s going to the dentist. Yet 31% of US parents said their kids between the ages of 6 and 12 missed school last year due to an oral health problem, according to Delta Dental of Arizona.
Specifically, 18% of parents reported that their children missed at least half a day of school, 4% said their children missed one day, 4% reported 2 days, and 6% said their children had to miss 3 or more days.
Parents in the Northeast reported the most absences due to a dental issue, at 36%, followed by the South at 33%, the Midwest at 28%, and the West at 28%. Also, parents between the ages of 35 and 44 saw the most absences at 35%, with parents ages 18 to 34 at 34% and parents 45 and older at 19%.
By encouraging some good habits at home, though, parents can avoid these absences, and kids can prevent a lot of pain. For example, children should be taught to brush all surfaces of the teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. They also should brush gently for about 2 minutes with special attention to the gumline. They should floss at least once a day as well.
There seems to be a correlation between these habits and school absences. Sixty percent of parents who reported no absences also said their children brushed more than once a day, and 36% said their children flossed more than once a day. Conversely, 21% of parents whose children missed school said their children only brushed once a day or less, and 19% said they only flossed once a day or less.
Diet also plays a major role. Parents should limit sugary snacks along with high-starch or refined carbohydrate foods, such as chips, pretzels, cookies, breads, and dried fruits, including raisins. The bacteria that causes tooth decay thrives on simple sugars, especially those in sticky foods and treats. Fruit juice and other sweet and sugary drinks should be limited to mealtimes. Between meals, and especially at bedtime, children should drink water. It keeps them hydrated and helps prevent tooth decay, if the community’s water is fluoridated.
Of course, parents should schedule 2 checkups a year to spot current or potential problems before they get worse. Tooth decay, which is largely preventable, is 5 times as common as asthma and 7 times as common as hay fever, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In fact, 66% of the parents who reported no absences said they had proactive visits to the dentist in the past year, while just 5% of parents who reported 3 or more absences had such visits.
Kelton conducted the 2015 Delta Dental Children’s Oral Health Survey. The research company communicated with 1,325 parents of children ages 12 and younger via email from December 2, 2014 to January 2, 2015. Kelton reports a margin of error of ± 2.7 percentage points and a 95% confidence level.