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Dystanie Veal, 5, receives a free dental screening from dental hygienist Thais Gay and assistant Troy Greenberry as the Daughters of Charity hold a back to school health and wellness fair for kids living in area homeless shelters, with children receiving health screenings, haircuts and backpacks full of school supplies at the St. Maria Goretti Center in New Orleans, La., Friday, July 20, 2018. Four kids received $3,000 scholarships to help cover higher education expenses.

We all know the pain a toothache can cause, but in our kids, a decaying tooth results in much more than just an annoying distraction. Studies have shown untreated dental pain in our kids is not just causing discomfort. A child experiencing dental pain is more likely to miss school, lose sleep and have poor concentration. Adolescents with dental pain have decreased confidence and increased depression. Cavities are a pervasive disease in our pediatric population. Nationally, over one-third of elementary students have cavities. This number increases to nearly two-thirds in our adolescents. Untreated, the bacteria that causes these cavities eats through the tooth to the delicate nerve fibers below. This results in persistent, gnawing pain and can have implications in many aspects of their daily lives.

Untreated cavities are twice as prevalent in low-income families. Children who have poor access to dental providers miss more school days when dental pain sets in than those who have established dental care.

Day promotes little healthy minds, bodies

Louisiana’s graduation rate saw an increase in the 2017-18 school year. Seems unrelated to dental pain? It’s not. A high school student with dental pain is four times more likely to have a GPA lower than 2.8 than a friend with no dental pain. Set your child up for success in school by going to the dentist.

As you prepare for the upcoming school year with uniform orders and school supply shopping, I urge you to get your child to a dentist — and make it a tradition. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a dentist visit every six months. There are a number of dentists in the Baton Rouge area that accept Medicaid. Talk to your pediatrician about recommendations in dental care based on your financial needs. Ask your dentist about preventive sealants and topical fluoride — two ways to stop cavities from forming. Dentists can treat cavities before they become a barrier to your child’s education and self-esteem.

Nicolette Marak

physician

Baton Rouge