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The Surprising Link Between Kids’ Smiles and Their Academic Performance

By October 5, 2023December 20th, 2023No Comments

The obvious benefit of orthodontic treatment is a beautiful smile. But did you know aligning the teeth and jaw has positive effects that go way beyond appearance? In fact, malocclusion, or a bad bite, can impact all areas of life, including academics. With school back in session, our Naperville and Shorewood orthodontists will be covering just that. 

Here are some of the surprising ways kids’ and teens’ smiles may influence their academic performance:


Crooked teeth are harder to properly clean and plaque and food debris can build up in the difficult-to-reach places. This puts kids at risk of developing tooth decay and gum disease. A study published in the American Journal of Public Health found children with poor oral health were three times more likely to miss school than their peers due to dental pain.

Bite problems, like an underbite, excessive overbite and crossbite can lead to temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and jaw pain, headaches and neck aches. This type of pain and dysfunction can also result in absences. 

2. Concentration

According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, kids with tooth decay are prone to sinus and ear infections and often have difficulty chewing. Lack of proper nutrition from being unable to eat certain foods combined with pain from infections can significantly impact a child’s ability to focus on schoolwork and learning. 

Airway issues are another concern. A mismatch between the upper and lower jaw can cause airway obstruction, leading to mouth breathing. Mouth breathing, in turn, reduces oxygen saturation in the body and interferes with craniofacial development.

A study in the American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics also found that the incidence of sleep-disordered breathing was significantly higher in young patients with orthodontic issues than it was in little ones without orthodontic concerns. 

Sleep-disordered breathing includes conditions like upper airway resistance syndrome and obstructive sleep apnea. The authors of the study noted that sleep-disordered breathing in kids is associated with difficulty concentrating in school and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).


Research in the Journal of Pediatrics discovered a correlation between oral health and problems at school. Kids with poor and fair dental health had more problems at school and were less likely to complete their homework than their counterparts. 

Kids and teens with airway issues that interfere with sleep and reduce oxygen saturation in the body are also prone to behavioral issues. Behavioral problems have a tendency to create tension with a child’s teachers and peers, affecting their school experience and, ultimately, their grades. 


While in a perfect world, a child’s appearance wouldn’t have any impact on their social and psychological well-being, unfortunately, that’s not the case. The same study mentioned above in the Journal of Pediatrics determined that dental problems were associated with unhappiness, shyness, feelings of worthlessness and reduced friendliness in children between ages 6 and 17. The authors stated that this also makes kids less likely to engage and enroll in social activities. 

The authors of the study cited research that found malocclusion can affect teens’ perceived attractiveness by others and social acceptance too. This really highlights the fact that both the oral health and cosmetic benefits of braces and Invisalign Teen are important. Having a healthy, beautiful smile gives kids and teens the confidence they need to build social skills, pursue their goals and develop relationships with their peers. 

How Does Orthodontic Treatment Prevent These Problems?

Two of the most notable health benefits of orthodontic treatment are promoting optimal function and improving oral health. We do this by creating ideal spacing between the teeth and a healthy relationship between the teeth, jaw, TMJ and chewing muscles, which makes plaque removal easier and minimizes pain. 

For jaw-related concerns, having your child evaluated by an orthodontist at age 7 is key. While most kids won’t need treatment right away, if we do spot certain red flags, we can intervene early to prevent more serious problems from developing. In cases of a small jaw that’s causing mouth breathing and/or sleep-disordered breathing, maxillary expansion using a phase 1 appliance will guide jaw growth and help open the airway (learn more about airway orthodontics here).

The Key Takeaway

The effects of crooked teeth and a misaligned bite are tied to reduced attendance, concentration difficulties, behavior problems and lack of confidence in children and teens. This can have a negative impact on their academic performance. 

Orthodontic treatment won’t instantly turn a child into a straight-A student. However, it creates better conditions that set kids up for success. 

Connect With a Shorewood or Naperville Orthodontist

To see what we can do for your kiddo’s smile, health and confidence, schedule a complimentary consultation with an American board-certified orthodontist in Naperville or Shorewood, IL today!

Dr. Manal Ibrahim