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Poor Dental Care Affects More Than Teeth for Poor Children

We all know children should see the dentist regularly to protect them from getting cavities and maintain the health of their teeth.

According to a Nov. 13, 2012 article on, children who are living in poverty, and especially homeless children, are particularly vulnerable to cavities.

Research from the University of Akron and the Case Western Reserve University found that as homeless children get older they are prone to more cavities.

A correlation was also found between cavities and childhood obesity in the group tested.

Marguerite DiMarco, associate professor at the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing at Case Western Reserve University and a pediatric nurse practitioner, said that living in poverty is the primary cause of chronic infections affecting children.

DiMarco said that tooth decay and obesity have become greater health issues than childhood asthma.

It's no surprise that poverty contributes to bad dental health. Poor people have less choice about what foods they can eat.

It's also not surprising that homelessness makes things even more difficult. Having no refrigerator or running water makes healthy eating an even greater challenge.

DiMarco emphasized that tooth decay causes infection that can actually be transmitted from one person to another, especially under conditions like homelessness where hygiene can be next to impossible.

Sharing utensils or glasses, or using each others' toothbrushes can be an unavoidable fact of life that helps to spread infection.

Inability to go to the dentist compounds the problem. This does not only affect jobless families, but also is a serious problem for many of the working poor who just can't afford dental care.

Research findings were published online in the article, "Childhood obesity and dental caries in homeless children" in the Journal of Pediatric Health Care.

To make the picture grimmer yet, an Aug. 13, 2012 article indicated that children who aren't able to receive dental care can pay a price in their ability to do well in school.

Research from the Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC indicated that there may be a direct correlation between poor dental health and academic achievement.

Tooth pain can diminish children's ability to concentrate and learn when they do go to class. It can also cause children to miss school.

This can have a detrimental ripple effect of causing parents to have to miss work as they stay home with their children -- an inconvenience for middle class parents and a serious problem for poor parents.

Roseann Mulligan, chair of the school's Division of Dental Public Health and Pediatric Dentistry and corresponding author of the study, strongly urged that oral health programs be integrated to a far greater extent into educational, health and other programs.

She recommended that more research be done concerning the pressures that the present oral disease epidemic brings to bear on a financial, personal and societal level in the United States.

"The Impact of Oral Health on the Academic Performance of Disadvantaged Children" study was published in the September 2012 edition of the American Journal of Public Health.

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