With children around the US returning to school this month, a recently released study by the National Children's Oral Health Survey by Delta Dental Plans Association took a closer look at why so many children were absent last year. The study found that 30% of children between the ages of 6 and 12 missed over 9 million days of school during the 2015-16 school year due to oral health problems alone. This number did not include days missed due to routine dental exams.

The findings also suggest that in addition to causing undue pain and anxiety, dental problems can often cause students to fall behind in their classwork due to missed days and the inability to focus due to discomfort.

The study highlighted how important good oral care is in helping children to succeed in school. Regular dental exams, eating a healthy diet, brushing regularly with a fluoride toothpaste, flossing, and drinking fluoridated tap water are among the recommendations the Delta Dental study suggested to help keep children’s teeth healthy and strong.

The study also found that 71% of parents surveyed felt their children’s oral health is a top concern- more so than their child’s grades and level of physical activity. Dr. Stephen Hill of Allen, TX says the study findings paint a grim picture, but are easy to overcome. "Following the recommendations of the Delta Dental survey can alleviate most fears parents have about their children’s oral health," said Hill. "Though I realize that is often easier said than done." And while Dr. Hill agrees that it is often difficult to convince children to care for their teeth, he suggests parents speak to their children’s dentist for some suggestions about to encourage their children to brush and floss. "There are many ideas your dentist may have to help motivate your kids to take better care of their teeth. Remember- we see parents every day and get a firsthand account of what works and what doesn’t."