Friday, November 4, 2011


Evidence shows that proper dental care and oral hygiene maintenance vastly decrease dental problems and are essential to childhood health and well-being. Evidence indicates that Schools of the 21st Century provide precisely the mix of education and services to improve students’ oral health and overall well-being. In this issue brief, we examine how Schools of the 21st Century implement cost-effective and efficient dental care programs.
Extent of the Problem
Tooth decay and other preventable dental problems begin early; more than a quarter of children age 2 to 5 had decayed baby teeth. Approximately half of children have had cavities by the age of 11. By the age of 19, tooth decay in one or more permanent teeth affects 68 percent of adolescents.
Yet, more than 25 percent of poor children enter kindergarten never having seen a dentist.
Dental problems negatively impact a student’s ability to attend and participate fully in school. Tooth decay may result in pain, poor nutrition, dysfunctional speech, lack of concentration, poor appearance, low self-esteem, and absenteeism. According to the US Surgeon General, American schoolchildren lose more than 51 million school hours each year due to dental problems.
Tooth decay becomes larger and more expensive to repair when left untreated. Both preventing tooth decay and treating existing dental problems are essential to good childhood health and well-being.
Key Risk Factors Related to Poor Dental Health
Understanding the roots of dental problems is important to determine appropriate school-based interventions. These are discussed as follows.
Affordability of Dental Care
As with health care, dental care can be prohibitively expensive for families. More than 20 million American children lack dental insurance and uninsured children are 2.5 times less likely to receive dental care than insured children, detailed in the table on the following page.

Tooth decay is the single most common—and preventable—chronic childhood disease. In the United States, childhood tooth decay is five times more common than asthma and seven times more common than hay fever.
Schools are uniquely suited to promote oral health; research shows that school-based oral health programs can reduce tooth decay and promote oral health.


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