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Back to school with good dental health

Children are heading back to school this fall, and dentists are reminding parents to include a dental exam as part of their preparation for the upcoming year.

A painful tooth or chronic dental problem can lead to difficulty in eating, speaking and concentrating, and dental problems can cause many children to miss school. According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, children miss more than 750,000 school days each year as a result of dental problems and related conditions.

Routine dental examinations uncover problems that can be treated in the early stages when damage is minimal and restorations may be small. This helps prevent painful, chronic conditions and saves money.

Dental health is as important as immunizations, say dentists.

"All children need and deserve to arrive on the first day of school healthy and ready to learn," said Dr. Kimberly Harms, a consumer advisor for the American Dental Association. "Most parents don't realize that tooth decay is largely preventable. It remains the most common, chronic disease of children — four times more common than asthma and a key cause of tooth loss in younger people."

Unhealthy snack choices also have a negative impact on dental health, so when sending kids back to school be sure to pack lunches with water or milk instead of sweetened beverages.

"When teeth come in frequent contact with sweetened soft drinks and other sugar-containing substances, the risk of tooth decay is increased, as is the potential for erosion of tooth enamel," said Dr. Harms. "Kids and teens are more susceptible to decay from soft drinks because their tooth enamel is not fully developed."

Eating habits, home care, past treatment needs, fluoride intake and other factors all affect the likelihood of dental diseases, and the frequency of dental visits will depend on those factors. But scheduling a visit to the dentist at the beginning of the school year can help start the year off on the right foot.

©2010 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

8/31/2009

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