(DOUG JESSOPJESSSOP’S JOURNEYS) What are some of the biggest reasons kids get sick and miss school?

According to Kim Lowe, “With sick days, I would say dental disease or tooth decay is one of the biggies that we see with absenteeism with our children.”

Kim Lowe is a registered nurse and school nurse supervisor for Utah County Health Department. She explains the problem.

“Our mouths are the gateway to the body. What a lot of people don’t realize is that when you have tooth decay, or any kind of dental disease, that goes into your body, and for instance, down the road, can cause heart disease.

There are many parents that do not have resources to get the dental care that they need. So children will come to school with tooth decay. It turns into an infection and they start to have a lot of pain. They’re not able to concentrate. They’re not able to learn. And they end up staying home many times for weeks. Because they have not been able to access the care that they need.”

According to Nurse Lowe, something as simple as a special kind of sugar found in certain gums and mints can help.

Xylitol is a form of sugar. It is a 6-carbon sugar. It’s been shown to significantly reduce tooth decay. The gum has xylitol in it. Over the years it has been proven that different gums with xylitol in it does significantly reduce the formation of tooth decay.”

Nate Jones CEO of XLEAR, explains. “If you’re not addressing it as a bacterial infection you’re not solving the problem. And that’s what xylitol does. It gets rid of the bacteria that are creating the acid. So it is not to used instead of fluoride. It’s not to be used instead of brushing your teeth. It is something completely different, but they work synergistically.”

Former State Legislator, Brad Daw, is spearheading a program to help to reduce school sick days and help improve dental health.

“Study after study show that kids who chew gum, or mint, or some other form of getting that xylitol in their mouth they have almost no cavities.”

Daw has arranged with XLEAR to donate a certain amount of their Xylitol-based gum Spry, to kids through schools.

“Because all kids go to school, most of them do. It’s a great place for that to be introduced. Of course, any program that we would do would be entirely voluntary. SURE. But we would say, listen. Here is the evidence. Here’s what we know. We talk to parents and say, listen. Here’s the benefit to your kid. We’ll be happy to pass out the gum or the mint.”

The price is certainly right…Daw continued; “We are working with school districts now. We are working with school nurses and PTA and others. We are saying, listen, we will give you a supply of gum for a year, free. WOW. Just try it out.”

Of course, preventative dental care doesn’t mean much if kids don’t participate. Kim Lowe doesn’t think that will be a problem. She smiled and exclaimed; “I’m sure kids would prefer chewing gum.”

I asked Daw if there is anything that consumers, the general public, can do to help this program move forward? He replied;  “Yeah, call your school board member. You we want to be the ones that get the free gum while it is still available. It costs us nothing and we could have a huge benefit. Call your school board member and say let’s get going.”

With another entry into Jessop’s Journeys – People, Places and Things You Might Not Know About, I’m Doug Jessop.

Doug Jessop
For Doug Jessop, it all started with a cassette recorder he got for Christmas when he was 12 years old growing up in Southern California. Doug interviewed relatives, friends and anyone else that might have a good story. You can follow Doug at www.DougJessop.com, on YouTube.com/DougJessop, and @DougJessopNews on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.