Newswise — The end of summer vacation signals the beginning of school for the nation's estimated 56 million elementary and high school students.

In preparing for the new school year, the American Dental Association (ADA) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) remind parents and caregivers to include a dental examination as part of their children's routine back-to-school health check-ups and immunizations.

Dental exams should not be overlooked, states Kimberly Harms, D.D.S., ADA consumer advisor and practicing Minnesota dentist.

"All children need and deserve to arrive on the first day of school healthy and ready to learn," says Dr. Harms. "Professional dental care is important to maintaining good overall health."

"Children with untreated health and development problems may have trouble concentrating and learning," says Rani Gereige, M.D., MPH, FAAP, and member of the AAP's executive committee of the Council on School Health. "When a child has serious tooth decay, it can affect overall health and can lead to problems in eating, speaking and paying attention in class, which is why it is important to include an oral health assessment by a dentist as part of the routine back-to-school health examination," adds Dr. Gereige.

More than half of all 5-to 9-year-old children have at least one cavity or filling. Tooth decay is the result of an infectious disease for which there is no immunization.

"Most parents don't realize that tooth decay is largely preventable," explains Dr. Harms. "It remains the most common, chronic disease of children " four times more common than asthma and a key cause of tooth loss in younger people."

The ADA and AAP's back-to-school health awareness campaign is part of an effort by both organizations, reminding parents to complete all the health examinations and necessary immunizations for their children in time for the new school year.

About the American Academy of PediatricsThe American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 60,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information about the AAP, visit

About the American Dental AssociationThe not-for-profit ADA is the nation's largest dental association, representing more than 155,000 dentist members. The premier source of oral health information, the ADA has advocated for the public's health and promoted the art and science of dentistry since 1859. The ADA's state-of-the-art research facilities develop and test dental products and materials that have advanced the practice of dentistry and made the patient experience more positive. The ADA Seal of Acceptance long has been a valuable and respected guide to consumer and professional products. For more information about the ADA, visit the Association's Web site at

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