Beyond the social shame of sporting 'train tracks' (aka braces), it seems poor oral health, dental disease, and tooth pain can all wreck havoc on a kid's academic prowess.
A new Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC study, slated for publication in the September 2012 issue of the American Journal of Public Health, found a definite correlation between oral health, academic achievement, and attendance records of nearly 1,500 socioeconomically disadvantaged elementary and high school children in the Los Angeles area.
In a previous study, Ostrow documented that 73 percent of disadvantaged kids in L.A. had dental caries, the disease responsible for cavities in teeth.
Shockingly, children who experienced some kind of tooth pain were "four times more likely to have a low grade point average—below the median GPA of 2.8—when compared to children without oral pain."
In addition to lower grades, poor oral health has a trickle down effect, with kids missing more school (and their parents missing more work).
"On average, elementary children missed a total of 6 days per year, and high school children 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," said Roseann Mulligan, one of the study's authors and chair of the school's Division of Dental Public Health and Pediatric Dentistry.
For disadvantaged children, access to routine dentistry was clearly a factor in poor oral health. But for kids across the board, good dental care must start early and remain consistent. Mulligan stressed the need for a more integrated, school-based oral health programs.
Oral disease shouldn't be underestimated. Straight from the horse's mouth.