Tooth decay is the number one chronic disease in childhood and is a leading cause of missed school days  – an estimated 51 million school hours are lost each year due to dental-related illness.
Having a toothache makes it hard to concentrate, listen and learn. Dental decay disproportionately affects low-income children and communities of color. Disparities in dental health contribute to a higher rate of absenteeism among low-income children .
- A study found that California children missed 874,000 school days in 2007 due to toothaches or other dental problems .
- A 2008 study in North Carolina found that children with both poor oral and general health were 2.3 times more likely to perform poorly in school than their healthier peers .
- Poor children miss nearly 12 times as many school days because of dental pain than children from higher-income families .
- A survey of Native American school children found that one-third of children reported missing school because of dental pain .