Brushing Up On Head Start’s Oral Health

Brushing Up On Head Start’s Oral Health

Dental problems and pain are a leading cause of missed school days. Tooth decay and oral health problems can interfere with learning and academic success. It can be difficult to pay attention in school and can lead to poor attendance. Likewise, if children are experiencing dental pain or tooth decay, they can have trouble eating, communicating, learning, and feeling confident.

School readiness depends on positive physical, social and emotional, language, and cognitive development. Oral health impacts each of these areas and is a key aspect of a child’s school readiness.  Children with poor oral health may:

  • Have a hard time concentrating and learning because they are in pain
  • Develop other serious health conditions, such as infections
  • Stop smiling, cover their mouth with their hands when they speak, or withdraw from family, friends, and teachers if others comment on the appearance of their teeth

Head Start Ensures Daily Child Dental Care

Oral health influences overall health throughout a lifetime. Head Start promotes good oral health habits in early childhood and helsp to prevent any tooth decay or dental and oral problems in the future.

Teaching families about oral health throughout the program year is a valuable service that Head Start staff provide. Head Start programs can get information on a child's oral health status and care using oral health forms developed by the National Center on Health, Behavioral Health, and Safety. The forms are filled out during a child's dental visit and can be customized with the Head Start program's name, mailing address, phone and fax numbers, and email address.

Parents play a critical role, too. Their involvement is vital in keeping children’s mouths happy and healthy. Engaging Head Start parents in oral health initiatives and screenings when possible fosters great habits at home as well as in the classroom.

What can you do to help children have healthier smiles?

Dr. Deborah Bergeron

Dr. Deborah Bergeron

Dr. B is the NHSA's deputy director of Community Engagement and Innovation. She supports high-quality programming and is a constant reminder to the folks on the ground that they are the backbone of Head Start and Early Head Start.

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