Good health influences everything from how well a child is able to learn in the classroom to how much an adult is able to earn in the workplace – its effects truly last a lifetime. Oral health is no exception. In fact, research shows that dental health has a real effect on a child’s performance at school, career success and overall quality of life.
For children, the consequences of poor oral health include persistent pain, inability to chew foods well, embarrassment about discolored or damaged teeth and distraction from play and learning. The American Journal of Public Health reported that “elementary and high school students from families with low incomes who could not access needed oral health care in the last 12 months are three times as likely to miss school because of oral health problems as those who could access needed care.”
These harsh realities are why the University of Louisville School of Dentistry recently taught more than 2,000 children at six Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) about the importance of proper dental hygiene. Many also received free dental screenings, with around 250 UofL dental and dental hygiene students, faculty and community volunteers visiting and screening children for signs of dental decay and cavities; then they notified parents or legal guardians about the findings. Children left school with a goody bag complete with a toothbrush, floss and dental health educational materials.
“Good dental care is vital to our students’ overall wellbeing and confidence, key elements in them coming to school happy, healthy and ready to learn,” said JCPS Superintendent Donna Hargens, Ed.D. Here at Metro United Way, we know that good health helps lead to a lifetime of success!