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Preventive Oral Healthcare in Kids Pays off for Working Parents

Proactive oral health care may be the best hedge against poor school performance, short paychecks, and skyrocketing healthcare costs.

Most kids get dental caries. Tooth decay is such a common childhood disease it might be considered a part of growing up. According to the most recent figures from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly half of 2- to 19-year-olds experience at least one case of tooth decay in either primary or permanent teeth. It’s a situation that requires a trip to the dentist for what is typically an easy fix.1,2

But the CDC estimates that the prevalence of untreated caries in primary or permanent teeth among the same age group is 13.0%.1 Children from families living below the federal poverty level are the most frequently impacted. Left untreated, caries can prove disastrous on multiple levels. It can adversely affect children’s ability to speak, eat, play, and learn — and worse.1,2

HAMPERING CLASSROOM SUCCESS

Research shows that kids’ oral health is significantly linked to academic outcomes. For one thing, a high incidence of untreated caries results in time lost in school for kids. According to one study, acute or unplanned dental issues requiring intervention account for 34 million lost school hours annually.2,3

For such children, poor school performance is reflected in problems in school and plummeting grades. Conversely, children who missed school for routine dental checkups appear to be unaffected.2–4

AN EXPENSIVE PROBLEM

When kids miss school due to dental pain, it’s likely to affect their parents too. In some cases, their paychecks may take a hit when they must take time off to deal with emergent situations.

Parents reportedly miss an average of 2.5 days of work each year taking their children in for unplanned dental treatment or staying home with them. Further, unmitigated tooth pain may develop into much more extensive — and expensive — oral damage stemming from infections.

In severe cases, untreated caries might require a trip to the emergency department, which certainly would rack up much more significant healthcare costs than would preventive care.2,4

SOLUTIONS

Practicing proactive oral care is the ticket, say the experts. And there is certainly no lack of oral care products available to do just that. But at least part of the solution could lie with employers.

If employers include dental care as part of their employee benefits package, educate their employees about it, and encourage them to use it, the situation could be improved. Allowing flexibility in work hours so that parents can take kids to the dentist could also go a long way in solving the problem.4

REFERENCES

  1. Fleming E, Afful J. Prevalence of total and untreated dental caries among youth: United States, 2015-2016. NCHS Data Brief. 2018:307:1-8.
  2. Naavaal S, Kelekar U. School hours lost due to acute/unplanned dental care. Health Behavior and Policy Review. 2018;5(2):66-73.
  3. Guarnizo-Herreno CC, Lyu W, Wehby GL. Children’s oral health and academic performance: evidence of a persisting relationship over the last decade in the United States. J Pediatr. 2019:209:183-189.
  4. Cigna Healthcare News and Insights. Good Dental Health for Children Also Benefits Parents at Work.
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