Ready or not, it’s back to school time!
Don’t act shocked. The big box stores have been reminding you for months now. Remember the stack of three-ring binders next to the fireworks? No? What about the notebooks, backpacks and pens surrounding that gas grill you purchased?
Whether it was one of these signs, the end of the park district baseball season, or the sight of your teenager sleeping until noon for yet another day, there’s a good chance that you performed your parenting duty of getting an annual back-to-school physical on the calendar. That’s great, and you are to be commended for taking this important preventative health measure. Now, build on this momentum by making sure your family doesn’t overlook two lesser-scheduled but equally important appointments: a dental cleaning and routine eye exam.
A summer filled with saltwater taffy, ice cream and soda really adds up. Sure, you and I might add the pounds directly to our waistlines, but the kids seem to be able to eat whatever they want without consequence, right? It only appears that way.
The American Dental Association reports half of all kids age five to nine have at least one cavity or filling. Simply put, no matter how good your student is at brushing before bed, it’s not enough. In fact, a report in the American Journal of Public Health states that tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease – five times more common than asthma and seven times more common than hay fever.
It should come as no surprise then that the National Institutes of Health says 51 million school hours are lost each year due to dental-related problems – hours which affect a child’s health, well-being, growth and achievement. They may also benefit from invisalign braces to improve the alignment of their teeth.
Students should visit their family dentist for routine dental exams and cleanings every six months. Many dental insurance plans cover cleanings at 100 percent, so it is definitely worth your time and money to become a regular at your local dentist.
According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), 80 percent of classroom learning takes place visually. That’s a lot. So much that both political parties might be able to see eye-to-eye on this one (pun intended). In addition, one in four school-aged children has vision problems that may affect their ability to learn in school (source: Prevent Blindness America).
Not being able to see makes it harder to concentrate and take in new information – a poor formula for success at any academic level. The good news is basic vision problems are easily corrected and likely won’t even cost you that much. Pediatric vision coverage is one of the 10 essential health benefits contained in the Affordable Care Act. Included are annual exams, glasses (both lenses and frames) and contact lenses instead of glasses for individuals up to 19 years old.
Even if your school conducts vision tests, be sure to use this benefit. School-based vision screenings are helpful in determining a child’s ability to see letters clearly, but shouldn’t be used as a replacement for a full eye exam.
One more thought: while you’re contacting the dentist’s and optometrist’s offices, why not schedule an appointment for yourself? Adults can benefit from routine checkups as much as kids.
For example, according to the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, pregnant and diabetic patients who treat their periodontal disease experience up to up to 74 percent lower medical costs and hospitalizations than those who do not. Additionally, routine eye exams can catch potential adult health problems such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes (source: All Vision.com).
True, no one likes spending the waning days of summer at the dentist or optometrist. However, the short-term inconvenience of these exams can have a big payoff in the form of lower total health care costs, less time away from school and work, better performance at work and academic success for your student. Not a bad tradeoff for a few hours away from the pool.