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HEALTHY TEETH AND SMARTER KIDS, IS THERE A LINK?

by Dr. J. Saladin

Pediatric Dentist

As you likely already know, our Greater Sacramento public schools have responsibly informed parents of groundbreaking legislation effective since 2006 which requires children entering public school in either kindergarten or first grade to present proof of having obtained an oral health assessment. So why is the law so concerned about our local schools? Well, this new legislature is actually a national policy. Nationally, over 51 million school hours are missed annually to dental disease, the most widespread chronic childhood disease. Only prevention, as this policy promotes, can help keep our children healthy and help keep them in our schools. As a local pediatric dentist specializing in children’s oral and dental health, every little thing counts towards a child’s overall well being. Therefore, in the spirit of prevention, I would like to contribute a little education to help parents understand the importance of baby teeth.

Many people ask me, why are baby teeth so important if they are all going to fall out regardless? The notion that our own legislature feels so strongly about children’s oral health has much to do with the cost associated with the complications that arise do to dental neglect. The costs are not only fiscal but also social. These complications reach far into a person’s lifetime, effecting learning, speech, physical growth and self esteem. This domino effect of complications is clearly understood by dental professionals, especially those who have specialized in pediatrics. Yet, our public may be less informed of these issues. The personal effects on a child can be briefly addressed below:

• GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT
Baby teeth are an important component in maintaining the space for permanent teeth to erupt normally. Premature loss of baby teeth due to cavities can yield detrimental effects on the growth and development of a child’s face and profile development.

• NUTRITION
A healthy mouth is important towards maintaining a healthy diet. It’s common to see children who suffer from chronic untreated dental cavities also suffer from malnutrition. Children simply can’t chew food if they suffer from premature loss of teeth, chronic infections or chronic pain. This has a long lasting impact on how a child physically develops through adulthood.

• SPEECH
Premature loss of teeth can lead to poor speech development because certain teeth may be missing that aid in proper pronunciation. As a result, many children are not only delayed in their speech progress, but are also delayed at their schools.

• SELF ESTEEM
Healthy smiles can help a child feel better about themselves and the way they interact with others.

Ultimately, our children’s education depends on a number of factors from good parenting to good health. This legislature is a step in the right direction towards awareness and prevention, helping our children stay healthy and confident in our schools.

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