It seems more and more kids are distracted these days; with things like smart phones, tablets and the vast amount of information on the Internet, it’s no wonder that the current generation of school children find it difficult to focus and stay on task for long periods of time. While it’s true that things like checking email, updating Facebook statuses, playing online video games and watching movies are big distractions, I’d like you to consider another distraction that you may have forgotten about: the health of their mouths, which often leads to failure at school.
Yes, the taboo topic: oral health. Like it or not, the health of children’s mouths can be a huge distraction and contribute vastly to the success or failure of children in school. Most of us have dealt with either cavities and/or gum disease at some point in our lives; after all, over 80% of the world’s population suffers with gum disease and cavities within a lifetime.
1. Cavities can cause children to fail in school
Cavities are the single most common chronic childhood disease. In fact, cavities are five times more common than asthma and seven times more common than hay fever. In the U.S. alone, cavities and gum disease cause kids to miss 51 million school hours and their parents to lose 25 million work hours annually.
Children experiencing mouth pain are easily distracted, unable to concentrate on schoolwork, and have problems with schoolwork completion. Untreated cavities can also cause headaches, physical dysfunction, poor appearance and speech issues—problems that greatly affect a child’s quality of life and ability to succeed in school, ultimately leading to them failing in school.
A recent study in Los Angeles, CA at the Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC reported that children living in the LA area who had complained of tooth pain were about four times more likely to have a GPA lower than the average versus children who did not have mouth pain.
2. Heavy plaque left on the teeth
Let’s face it, children’s words are often cruel, and plaque that sits on teeth not only smells bad, but it also causes the teeth to look yellow or dirty, which can be a source of teasing or bullying.
Your teeth don’t have to be straight and beautiful, but if they are dirty, other children are more likely to notice it and make a big deal about it, a distraction that leads to self-esteem issues and failure in school.
Also, recent studies confirm that the bacteria in plaque are responsible for everything from diabetes to Alzheimer’s disease, and a variety of chronic illnesses. The bacteria inside plaque is full of nasty viruses, and other disease causing bacteria that wreaks havoc on immune systems, and starts to build up in childhood. We can help put a stop to the rise of these diseases if we focus on home care while children are young.
3. Bad Breath
Young or old, who wants to be around stinky mouth? Here’s the problem: most kids that suffer with bad breath don’t know it, but everyone else around them sure does. In the event that your child does suffer from bad breath, the first thing to know is that many times it comes from plaque on the tongue or the teeth, which needs to be focused on when cleaning. However, if time goes by and you have exhausted all possibilities, you may need to see a doctor to make sure it is not stemming from an issue with tonsils, adenoids or sinuses.
A silver lining to the dark cloud
Now, it all may seem doom and gloom, but there is one great thing to know: these issues are all preventable, and most often treatable at home if you know the steps and the right products to use.
For instance, did you know that xylitol (a natural sweetener found in birch and corn husks) helps to neutralize the acids in plaque, and helps to re-mineralize the teeth? It is sweet like sugar and is found in many forms such as candy, gum, toothpaste and granular form. When taken after meals, it helps to neutralize cavity-causing plaque, and freshen breath. Six to ten grams (1-2 tsp) a day is all you need to really help with these issues. The trick is to have it throughout the day and not all at once.
Also, learn what foods feed bacteria (breads, crackers, rice, pasta, simple carbohydrates, and dried fruit, for example), and what foods help neutralize bacteria (pineapple, nuts, seeds, cheese, broccoli and cucumber, for example). Finish your meals and snacks with neutralizing foods instead of acidic ones.
Incorporating new techniques
Lastly, really knowing how to take care of your mouth is the biggest piece to the puzzle that rarely gets taught and demonstrated by dental professionals. We are told that brushing, flossing and visiting the dentist for cleanings is all that is needed, but if that were the case, most of us would be healthier than we are. Truth be told, after seeing and cleaning thousands of mouths, most people get to about 80% of the bacteria in their mouths, but the 20% left behind is the most detrimental.
Try switching up your routine to get to areas that you might miss. For instance, start brushing your teeth on the lower inside area closest to the tongue, or you could easily sit with your toothbrush and massage your gums while reading great articles at Lifehack.org, no toothpaste required!