Objectives: We examined school days missed for routine dental care versus dental pain or infection to determine the relationship between children's oral health status and school attendance and performance.
Methods: We used 2008 data from the North Carolina Child Health Assessment and Monitoring Program. The study sample, weighted to reflect the state's population, included 2183 schoolchildren. Variables assessed included school absences and performance, oral health status, parental education, health insurance coverage, race, and gender.
Results: Children with poor oral health status were nearly 3 times more likely (odds ratio = 3.89; 95% confidence interval = 1.96, 7.75) than were their counterparts to miss school as a result of dental pain. Absences caused by pain were associated with poorer school performance (P < .05), but absences for routine care were not. Mediation analyses revealed that oral health status was associated with performance independent of absence for pain.
Conclusions: Children with poorer oral health status were more likely to experience dental pain, miss school, and perform poorly in school. These findings suggest that improving children's oral health status may be a vehicle to enhancing their educational experience.