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Children’s Oral Health and Academic Performance: Evidence of a Persisting Relationship Over the Last Decade in the United States


To assess the association between children’s oral health and academic performance using the most recent US national data, a decade after the last assessment using similar previous data.
Study design
Data from the 2016-2017 National Survey of Children’s Health for 45 711 children aged 6-17 years were analyzed. Children’s oral health measures were indicators of specific oral health problems and parent-rated oral health. Academic performance measures included problems at school and missing school days. Regression models were employed adjusting for relevant demographic, socioeconomic, and health characteristics and state effects. Analyses also were conducted stratifying by child’s age, sex, household income, and type of health insurance.
We found significant associations across all the evaluated academic outcomes and oral health measures. Children with oral health problems were more likely to have problems at school (OR 1.56, 95% CI 1.32-1.85), miss at least 1 school day (OR 1.54, 95% CI 1.28-1.85), and miss more than 3 or 6 school days (OR 1.39, 95% CI 1.20-1.61 and OR 1.39, 95% CI 1.14-1.69; respectively). These associations were generally larger when using the child’s oral health rating. Poor oral health was consistently related to worse academic performance across age, sex, household income, and health insurance type subgroups.
Children’s oral health status continues to be strongly linked to their academic outcomes. This evidence highlights the need for broad population-wide policies and integrated approaches to reduce academic deficits and promote children’s health and development, of which oral health is an important component.