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The signs of fall signal back-to-work and back-to-school for many of us. They should also be a cue to make a dental appointment. Although you may not realize it, your dental insurance has seasons too. More than 90% of dental plans are based on a calendar year. If you do not use the benefits you are entitled to, they are gone as of December 31st. Your benefits are not carried forward into the next year.
It is especially important to come in for a visit as soon as possible before your 2012 dental insurance expires.
If you are thinking about getting some dental care sometime this year, now’s the time. Many treatments can take weeks to complete once treatment options are sorted out and insurance considerations are resolved. That’s why it’s especially important to come in for a visit to get things on the go as soon as possible, before your 2012 dental insurance expires.
Here are some guidelines for taking care of your infant’s mouth. Feel free to call us if you have any questions or concerns.
- Clean your infant’s gums with a clean damp cloths or toothbrush and plain water after each feeding. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush with a small head, preferably one designed specifically for infants.
- Avoid testing the temperature of the bottle with the mouth, sharing utensils (e.g., spoons), or orally cleaning a pacifier or a bottle nipple. This practice helps prevent transmission of bacteria that cause tooth decay from the parent, especially the mother, to the child via saliva.
- Do not put the infant to sleep with a bottle or sippy cup or allow frequent and prolonged bottle feedings or use of sippy cups containing beverages high in sugar (e.g., fruit drinks, soda, fruit juice), mild, or formula during the day or at night to prevent sugary fluids from pooling around the teeth, which can increase the infant’s risk for tooth decay.
- Brush the infant’s teeth as soon as the first tooth erupts, usually around age 6 to 10 months, twice a day (after breakfast and before bed). Use a soft-bristled toothbrush with a small head, preferably one designed specifically for infants, and plain water. Lift the lip to brush at the gum line and behind the teeth. Do not give the infant anything to eat or drink (except water) after brushing at night.
- If the infant has sore gums caused by tooth eruption, give the infant a clear teething ring, cool spoon, or cold wet wash cloth. Other options include giving the infant a chilled teething ring or simply rubbing the infant’s gums with a clean finger.
- Wean the infant from the bottle as the infant begins to eat more solid foods and drink from a cup. Begin to wean the infant gradually, at about age 9 to 10 months. By age 12 to 14 months, most infants can drink from a cup.
- For infants ages 6 months and older, serve age appropriate healthy foods during planned meals and snacks, and limit eating (grazing) in between.
- Serve foods containing sugar at meal times only (not between meals), and limit the amount. Frequent consumption of foods high in sugar, such as candy, cookies, cake, sweetened beverages (e.g., fruit drinks, soda), and fruit juice, increases the risk for tooth decay. In addition, frequent consumption of foods that easily adhere to the tooth surface, such as fruit-roll-ups and candy, increases the risk for tooth decay. When checking for sugar, look beyond the sugar bowl and candy dish. A variety of foods contain one or more types of sugar, and all types of sugars can promote tooth decay.
When Children’s Oral Health Suffers, So Does Their Ability to Learn
“What amounts to a silent epidemic of dental and oral diseases is affecting some population groups. This burden of disease restricts activities in schools, work, and home, and often significantly diminishes the quality of life.” ~Surgeon General David Satcher, Ph.D., M.D.
Lost School Time and Restricted-Activity Days
An estimated 51 million school hors per year are lost because of dental-related illness.
Students ages 5 to 17 years missed 1,611,000 school days in 1996 due to acute dental problems—an average of 3.1 days per 100 students.
Children from families with low incomes had nearly 12 times as many restricted-activity days (e.g., days of missed school) because of dental problems as did children from families with higher incomes.
Oral Health and Learning
Early tooth loss caused bydental decay can result in failure to thrive, impaired speech development, absence from and inability to concentrate in school, and reduced self-esteem.
Students with preventable or untreated health and development problems may have trouble concentrating and learning, have frequent absences from school, or develop permanent disabilities that affect their ability to learn and grow.
Children who take a test while they have a toothache are unlikely to score as well as children who are undistracted by pain.
Poor oral health has been related to decreased school performance, poor social relationships, and less success later in life. Children experiencing pain are distracted and unable to concentrate on schoolwork.
Children are often unable to verbalize their dental pain. Teachers may notice a child who is having difficulty attending to tasks or who is demonstrating the effects of pain—anxiety, fatigue, irritability, depression, and withdrawal from normal activities. However, teachers cannot understand these behaviors if they are not aware that a child has a dental problem.
Children with chronic dental pain are unable to focus, are easily distracted, and may have problems with schoolwork completion. They may also experience deterioration of school performance, which negatively impacts their self-esteem.
Left untreated, the pain and infection caused by tooth decay can lead to problems in eating, speaking, and learning.
If a child is suffering pain from a dental problem, it may affect the child’s school attendance, and mental and social well-being while at school.
School nurses report a range of oral health problems such as dental caries, gingival disease, malocclusion (poor bite), loose teeth, and oral trauma in children.
When children’s acute dental problems are treated and they are not experiencing pain, their learning and school attendance records improve.
Nutrition and Learning
People who are missing teeth have to limit their food choices because of chewing problems, which may result in nutritionally inadequate diets.
The daily nourishment that children receive affects their readiness for school.
Inadequate nutrition during childhood can have detrimental effects on children’s cognitive development and on productivity in adulthood. Nutritional deficiencies also negatively affect children’s school performance, their ability to concentrate and perform complex tasks, and their behavior.
Programs for Improving Oral Health
Oral health care is a critical component of health care and must be included in the design of community programs.
Head Start and Early Head Start are examples of programs that provide medical, dental, and nutritional screening, assessment, and referral, and seek to provide every child with the learning experiences necessary to succeed in school.
School-based oral health services can help make preventive services such as fluoride and dental sealants accessible to children from families with low incomes. Services should include screening, referral, and case management to ensure the timely receipt of dental care from community practitioners.
1. Community Voices: HealthCare for the Underserved. 2001. Poor Oral Health Is No Laughing Matter. Washington, DC: Community Voices: HealthCare for the Underserved.
2. Gift HC. 1997. Oral health outcomes research: Challenges and opportunities. In Slade GD, ed., Measuring Oral Health and Quality of Life (pp.25–46). Chapel Hill, NC: Department of Dental Ecology, University of North Carolina.
3. National Center for Health Statistics. 1996. Current estimates from the National Health Interview Survey, 1996 (Vital and Health Statistics: Series 10, Data from the National Health Survey; no. 200). Hyattsville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Center for Health Statistics.
4. Adams PF, Marano MA. 1995. Current estimates from the National Health Interview Survey, 1994(Vital and Health Statistics: Series 10, Data from the National Health Survey; no. 193). Hyattsville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Center for Health Statistics.
5. Chen M, Andersen RM, Barmes DE, Leclercq MH, Lyttle CS. 1997. Comparing Oral Health Care Systems: A Second International Collaborative Study. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization.
6. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. 2000. Healthy People 2010. In Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion [ Web site]. Cited January 15, 2001; available at www.healthypeople.gov/Document/HTML/Volume2/21Oral.htm.
7. McCart L, Stief E. 1996. Creating Collaborative Frameworks for School Readiness. Washington, DC: National Governors’ Association.
8. Rothstein, R. March 7, 2001. Lessons: Seeing Achievement Gains By An Attack on Poverty. New York, NY: New York Times.
9. U.S. General Accounting Office. 2000. Oral Health: Dental Disease is a Chronic Problem Among Low- Income and Vulnerable Populations. Washington, DC: U.S. General Accounting Office.
10. Ramage S. 2000. The impact of dental disease on school performance: The view of the school nurse. Journal of the Southeastern Society of Pediatric Dentistry 6(2):26.
11. Schechter N. 2000. The impact of acute and chronic dental pain on child development. Journal of the Southeastern Society of Pediatric Dentistry 6(2):16.
12. Peterson J, Niessen L, Nana Lopez GM. 1999. Texas public school nurses’ assessment of children’s oral health status. Journal of School Health 69(2):69–72.
13. Reisine ST. 1985. Dental health and public policy: The social impact of dental disease. American Journal of Public Health 75(1):27–30.
14. National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. 2000. Oral health and quality of life. In National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion [ Web site]; available at www.cdc.gov/OralHealth/factsheets/sgr2000-fs5.htm.
15. Boyer EL. 1992. Ready to Learn: A Mandate for the Nation. Lawrenceville, NJ: Princeton University Press.
16. Center on Hunger, Poverty, and Nutrition Policy.
1994. Statement on the Link Between Nutrition and Cognitive Development in Children. Medford, MA: Tufts University, Center on Hunger, Poverty, and Nutrition Policy.
17. National Institutes of Dental and Craniofacial Research. 2000. The Surgeon General ’s Report on Oral Health. In National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research [ Web site]. Cited January 15, 2001; available at www.nidcr.nih.gov/sgr/oralhealth.asp.
18. Personal communication with Mark Nehring, Maternal and Child Health Bureau, Health Resources and Services Administration, 7/12/01.
This fact sheet was produced by Katrina Holt and Karen Kraft of the National Maternal and Child Oral Health Resource Center under its grant (1H47MC00048) from the Maternal and Child Health Bureau, Health Resources and Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Oral Health and Learning: When Children’s Health
Suffers, So Does Their Ability to Learn (2nd ed.) © 2003
by National Maternal and Child Oral Health Resource Center, Georgetown University.
Web site: www.mchoralhealth.org