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Study Links Oral Health, Self-Esteem In Children

Dr Martin Abelar - May 21, 2020 - 0 comments

A recent study by global health and hygiene brand Unilever Oral Care took a unique look at oral health and children. The study examined the link between oral health care and children’s self-esteem and found a surprisingly strong connection between the two.

Self-esteem is an invaluable concept in children. It can set them up for a lifetime of success – or failure. While there are many ways to build up a child’s self-esteem, one way to automatically build it is through good oral hygiene. In fact, oral hygiene has such an impact on self-image that, according to the Unilever study, nearly half of all children with bad oral health and 40 percent of children who experienced dental pain also suffer from low self-esteem. Conversely, only 32 percent of children with excellent oral health and 26 percent of children who experienced no dental pain suffer from low self-esteem.

So, why these low self-esteem rates? Embarrassment, for starters. According to the study, many children are embarrassed by the way their teeth look when speaking, and as a result they are afraid to speak up in class. Worse yet, some children report being bullied over the condition of their teeth.

Another sad statistic? Children with poor oral hygiene are five times less likely to smile, and children with poor oral hygiene report a greater struggle to make new friends – and that they are more likely to self-isolate and avoid social interaction. A whopping 20 percent of respondents with poor oral hygiene reported these difficulties, versus only 6 percent of kids with good oral hygiene. This is especially concerning because childhood social interaction is a crucial key to building confidence and social skills for the future.

And it doesn’t just harm them socially – poor oral hygiene can hurt children academically, too. Children with poor oral health miss more school to address oral health problems than children with healthy teeth do, and when they are at school, they have a harder time learning because they are distracted by the pain. They also report trouble sleeping and struggling to stay focused. They are also less likely to be engaged in extracurricular activities such as team sports – other activities that boost self-esteem and even academic performance.

So, what’s the takeaway from this study? Oral hygiene in children is more important than we may have thought, so make sure your kids are brushing and flossing twice a day. It will benefit their smile, their overall health and their mental health, too.

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