Children can be distracted in the classroom for many reasons, but dental pain shouldn’t be one of them. Did you know that almost 40% of children ages 2-8 experience tooth decay? Tooth decay can cause pain and problems with eating, speaking and learning. It’s nearly 100% preventable through healthy behaviors and access to dental care. Back to school is the time for a fresh start and an opportunity for schools to make oral health a priority for their students.
Schools are an optimal partner to improve the oral health of students and families by promoting healthy habits. Good oral health is more than brushing and flossing; it’s eating healthy foods and drinking non-sugary beverages. Schools should reinforce positive oral health messages throughout the year, especially on holidays like Halloween. Schools also set the example by serving nutritious foods and promoting healthy choices at events. Next time your school considers a food drive, include toothpaste and toothbrushes! Families in need probably need oral health supplies, too.
Schools can also promote mouthguards in sports programs, which are proven to reduce the risk of dental trauma such as tooth loss and cut lips and can lessen the impact of concussions.
Most importantly, schools are a great place for students who are at high risk for oral disease to access oral health care through school-based programs. Prevention programs like education, dental sealants, fluoride mouthrinse and varnish contribute to a healthy mouth. When preventive oral health care is delivered in schools, it is critical for children to have a dental home: an ongoing relationship between a dental office and their patient. Dental homes deliver dental care in a comprehensive and family-centered way and provide early intervention and restorative treatment.
“Students are amazing advocates for their own health and well-being, and can pass healthy messages to siblings, parents and caregivers,” states Debra Barr, a certified school dental hygienist employed by the West Shore School District near Harrisburg. Through school-based oral health programs, children learn skills that allow them to adopt a healthy lifestyle long after they go “back to school.”
PA Coalition for Oral Health advances policies and practices that increase oral health services, education and prevention, especially for our most vulnerable Pennsylvanians. Find more resources at www.paoralhealth.org or by calling 724-972-7242.
SOURCE PA Coalition for Oral Health