The American Dental Hygienists' Association to Emphasize the Connection Between Oral Health and Children's Ability to Learn During National Children's Dental Health Month in February

Jan 31, 2011, 10:00 ET from American Dental Hygienists' Association

CHICAGO, Jan. 31, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Building upon the success of the National Dental Hygiene Month message—Brush, Floss, Rinse, and Chew sugar-free gum—the American Dental Hygienists' Association will emphasize the connection between oral health and children's ability to learn in observance of National Children's Dental Health Month (NCDHM) in February.

"Children's oral health has a direct impact on their ability to learn," says Caryn Solie, RDH, ADHA president. "If children are in pain from toothaches, they are not able to concentrate and focus on the material in class. And if they have to continuously miss school due to dental concerns, they are more likely to fall behind. Emphasizing the 'brush, floss, rinse, chew' method can help children get into a routine of dental care, because it's simple and easy to remember."

According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, early tooth loss results in impaired speech development, absence from and inability to concentrate in school, failure to thrive and reduced self-esteem.(1) With tooth decay representing the most chronic disease affecting children, stressing proper oral care falls to parents, no matter how defiant a child gets.

Poor oral health is connected to lower school performance, poor social relationships and less success later in life.(2) Children experiencing toothaches are distracted and unlikely to score well on tests.(3) However, they're also often unable to communicate their pain, even if a teacher notices them having difficulties in class. Some of the side effects of pain are anxiety, fatigue, irritability, depression and withdrawal from normal activities.(4)

Children's school attendance and performance improve when their dental problems are treated, and they are no longer in pain.(5) Teaching and accentuating proper oral care can prevent many of these problems for children in school, and serve them better later in life.

Ultimately, you want your child to be able to maintain an oral care routine alone. Putting emphasis on prevention and proper care can save children the pain of toothache, and avoid the consequences poor oral health can have on their learning. But since children can be rebellious about taking care of their teeth, there are ways to coax them into cooperation.(6)

  • Parents should plan on helping their children with brushing and flossing for longer. Children don't have the fine motor skills needed to brush properly until age 6, and aren't able to floss correctly until age 10.
  • Schedule brushing, flossing and rinsing at times when your child is not tired.
  • Let your child be involved in the process in an age-appropriate way. This could be as simple as letting him or her pick toothpaste from options you approve. You could even let your children pick their toothbrushes, since there are many colored and decorated options for kids.
  • Use positive reinforcement and find out what will motivate your child into brushing and flossing. This may be a sticker or gold stars on a chart, which can also keep them on track.

ADHA encourages dental hygienists across the country to get involved during NCDHM to increase public awareness of the specific oral health issues related to children and to help parents understand how prevention plays a key role in optimum health.

For more information about this topic and other oral health issues, visit or

ADHA is the largest national organization representing the professional interests of more than 150,000 dental hygienists across the country. Dental hygienists are preventive oral health professionals, licensed in dental hygiene, who provide educational, clinical and therapeutic services that support total health through the promotion of optimal oral health. For more information about ADHA, dental hygiene or the link between oral health and general health, visit ADHA at


  1. National Maternal and Child Oral Health Resource Center. Oral Health and Learning: When Children's Health Suffers, So Does Their Ability to Learn (2nd ed.) 2003. Maternal and Child Health Bureau, Health Resources and Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  2. U.S. General Accounting Office. 2000. Oral Health: Dental Disease is a Chronic Problem Among Low-Income and Vulnerable Populations. Washington, DC: U.S. General Accounting Office.
  3. Rothstein, R. March 7, 2001. Lessons: Seeing Achievement Gains By An Attack on Poverty. New York, NY: New York Times.
  4. Ramage S. 2000. The impact of dental disease on school performance: The view of the school nurse. Journal of the Southeastern Society of Pediatric Dentistry 6(2):26.
  5. Reisine ST. 1985. Dental health and public policy: The social impact of dental disease. American Journal of Public Health 75(1):27–30.

SOURCE American Dental Hygienists' Association