Association between Dental Health and Academic Performance

Studies have established an association between oral health and overall health status, and other studies have established an association between health status and socioeconomic success. Although the direction of causation, if any, has not been established, it is conceivable that it is bidirectional.

A recent article in the September issue of the American Journal of Public Health investigated the association between oral health and academic performance among socioeconomically disadvantaged children in the Los Angeles school system.

The study reviewed 2313 students whose parents completed a questionnaire which collected data on sociodemographics, oral health behavioral habits, parent’s attitude toward oral health, and the child’s oral health symptoms. A dental examination was also performed, at the school, by a general dentist. The academic records of 629 of the children were retrieved from the central database for correlation.

The results showed that: “Children averaged 2.2 absent days per school year for dental problems, and parents averaged 2.5 absent days from work …. because of their children’s dental problems.” and, “Almost 16% of students with toothaches in the past 6 months missed school compared with 3% of those without toothaches.” The results further showed that this translated into lower academic performance: “Students with toothaches in the past 6 months were almost 4 times more likely to have a GPA lower than the median…. compared with students without a recent toothache.”

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