Oral health concerns account for more than 160,000 school absenc - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Oral health concerns account for more than 160,000 school absences in Wisconsin

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Parents have a lot to focus on when it comes to their kids, from grades to activities to their overall well-being.  New data from Delta Dental of Wisconsin shows another one of those concerns is oral health; survey results showed more than 160,000 school absences in Wisconsin were rooted in an oral health problem. 

"This isn't a dental appointment.  This is due to dental pain," says Ann Boson, Director of Charitable Funds & Community Relations for Delta Dental of Wisconsin. 

Delta Dental surveyed more than 1,300 parents of six to 12-year-olds.  More than 153,000 of their kids, about 30%, have missed school because of oral health.  Health experts say the pain caused from dental problems can be so distracting that kids fall behind in school. 

"Children can be in dental pain due to an inflammation in the gums, due to a cavity that's gotten so deep it's hitting the nerve ending.  The decay has just gotten so rampant that it's just painful to chew because there's no support there," says Boson. 

"[If] people don't learn about how to take care of their teeth, those habits aren't set for people.  And there's problems later on in life as well," says Ken Loving a medical doctor and CEO of Access Community Health Centers.

Even though much of this age group still has baby teeth, health experts remain concerned.

"We have found that the decay in baby teeth transcends into their permanent teeth, so if you have a mouthful of baby teeth with cavities, you're going to have a mouthful of adult teeth with cavities," says Boson. 

"If you can prevent problems from occurring, you cut down on the cost of healthcare, and you also cut down on the pain and suffering that people have if they're not able to access dental care later on in life," says Loving. 

Here are some ways to prevent oral health problems for your kids.  Delta Dental recommends limiting the sugar in their diets, especially sugary drinks.  Instead focus on foods that are high in calcium and vitamin D, like cheese and yogurt, or crunchy foods like carrots and apples that create saliva production.  Also, have your kids drink fluoridated water or use fluoridated toothpaste.  Another recommendation is to make sure they are brushing their teeth twice a day for two minutes and not forgetting to floss. 

Both Delta Dental of Wisconsin and Access Community Health Centers encourage regular visits to the dentist.  Kids can be seen as young as one to three-years-old for a check-up and cleaning. 

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