January 29, 2013

Dental Disease And Poor Academic Performance Linked

Poor oral health may affect academic performance, according to a study published in the September issue of American Journal of Public Health.

Researchers from the Ostrow School of Dentistry of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles performed clinical dental examinations in 1,495 socioeconomically disadvantaged elementary and high school students in the Los Angeles Unified School District.  They then matched the children’s oral health status to academic achievement and attendance records.

Children who reported experiencing recent tooth pain were almost four times more likely than those without tooth pain to have a grade point average lower than the median grade point average of 2.8, the authors wrote.

In addition, the investigators found that elementary school students missed, on average, six days of school per year, and high school students missed 2.6 days.  For elementary students, 2.1 days of missed school were due to dental problems, and high school  students missed 2.3 days due to dental issues.  This shows that oral health problems are a very significant factor in school absences.

Accessibility of dental care was one factor in determining whether children missed school as a result of dental health problems, the authors wrote.  They found that 11% of children who had limited access to dental care – owing to lack of insurance, lack of transportation, or other barriers – missed school because of poor oral health.  In contrast, only 4% of children who had easier access to dental care missed school, the authors wrote.

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