Poor Oral Health and GradesThere is currently a lack of emphasis on oral health in this nation. Elderly people on Medicare generally do not receive dental coverage. 49 million people in rural areas do not have access to nearby dentists. And overall, an estimated 100 million Americans do not have dental coverage. Oral health can have a significant effect upon overall health, but the added cost of this additional coverage is often more than American families are willing or able to pay.

This unfortunate trend seems to also be contributing to lower academic success. The American Journal of Public Health reports that a new study performed by the Ostrow School of Dentistry at the University of Southern California has discovered a correlation between poor dental health and academic achievement. The study examined over 1,000 students within the Los Angeles Unified School District attending elementary school through high school.  Researchers particularly focused on children who faced socioeconomic hardships and found that these children generally had diminished access to oral health care and correspondingly lower grades compared to other children.

Dental Problems Tied to Absences and Lower Grade Point Averages

According to the study, children who reported having toothaches were four times more likely to have a grade point average under the median GPA of 2.8 compared to children without tooth pain. The study also found that children with poor oral health had a higher number of absences than other children. In general, elementary school children in the district missed an average of six days every year.  The study noted that students in high school were absent an average of 2.6 days every year. Amongst elementary school students, 2.1 absences were attributed to oral health complications. Among high school students, 2.3 days were missed for dental concerns. These absences also affected parents who missed an average of 2.5 days of work every year to attend to children with dental issues.

Researchers worry that the correlation between poor grades and poor oral health is a direct result of lack of accessibility to quality dental care. Children in the district either lack sufficient health insurance, access to transportation for dental checkups, or some combination thereof. The researchers hope that their findings will lead to greater awareness of the need for proper oral care for children.