Unsurprisingly, Kids With Cavities Don't Do Well in School

Illustration for article titled Unsurprisingly, Kids With Cavities Don't Do Well in School

According to a recent study from USC's Ostrow School of Dentistry, — also informally known as the Ostrow School for Aspiring Sadists — kids whose mouths are riddled with cavities do significantly worse in school than their cavity-free peers, which might have something to do with the fact that only nerds floss. Children in the Los Angeles School District who were experiencing tooth pain were four times more likely to have a GPA that fell below the 2.8 median.


The current study focused on 1,500 socioeconomically disadvantaged elementary and high school children in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Researchers had previously figured out that some 73 percent of disadvantaged children in Los Angeles have dental problems, a figure that, when coupled with a New York Times report that claimed more preschoolers are turning up in dentists' offices with multiple cavities, points to an alarming trend among people who don't necessarily have regular access to dentists or information about maintaining proper dental hygiene.

The study also found that tooth trouble leads to more sick days, with elementary school students suffering from toothaches missing an average of six more days annually, and high school students missing about 2.6 more days. About 11 percent of students lacking accessible dental care missed school because of toothaches, compared with only four percent who had access to a dentist. Since having a toothache is one of the most distracting ailments ever, it makes sense that kids who can't see a dentist regularly and have the the X-Ray shard jammed into their mouths for a few minutes while a dental hygienist makes infuriating attempts at small talk are more likely to fall behind in school, because trigonometry becomes suddenly even more trivial when it feels like someone is stabbing your gums with dry ice.

Study: Kids with toothaches more likely to have lower grades, miss more school [CBS News]

Image via Graça Victoria/Shutterstock.



I once took a kid to the dentist because he tried to eat a crust of bread and cried in pain. Turned out that his parents hadn't taken him to the dentist since elementary school and he was 18. They had jobs with dental benefits, his sisters got dental care and had gorgeous teeth, but no one had taken care of him. I was in EMT school with him and when I saw how sick he was from all the infection in his system, I lost it and took him myself.

He cried again when the dentist told us that he needed $65,ooo worth of work to save what teeth he had left.

I sent him home with the x-rays and prognosis. His parents hated me for interfering, but they finally took him to their Dr.. Then it was his Mom's turn to cry; every upper tooth had to be extracted and the dentist brought them all out on a tray, to show her how black and decayed they were.

He ended up with dentures, but at least he is healthy and looks great.

Prior to that he wouldn't even date. He said "No girl will want some kid with black teeth." He got into fights, because rich kids made fun of him. He had no patience because he was always in pain. He mumbled to avoid showing his mouth..so people assumed he was stupid,; this and a slight learning disability landed him in special ed. He lost confidence in himself and dropped out of school to join the Army. I sometimes wonder if things would have gone better for him if his folks had just cared enough to take him to the dentist.

I'm sure this story is repeated all to often in families where dental care is not an option.