Your Back-to-School To-Do List: Medical, Dental, Hearing and Vision Tests

Suzanne Potter | California News Service
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report more than half of children ages 6 to 8 have had a cavity in at least one of their baby teeth. Photo Credit: Phoenix021/ Adobe Stock

As children head back to school in California, experts urged parents to bring them in for a physical and get their hearing, vision, and teeth checked as well.

A study from the Urban Institute found almost one in five parents delayed or skipped their children’s’ preventive visits during the pandemic, so now is the time to catch up.

Dr. Erin Shah, a pediatric dentist in the Bay Area, said dental problems are linked to absenteeism.

“Kids with dental problems are three times more likely to miss school than their peers without dental problems,” Shah explained. “Last time they tallied the amount of missed school hours, they tallied more than 51 million school hours lost to dental-related illness for school-age children each year.”

The American Optometric Association recommends children get their first comprehensive eye exam before their first birthday, again right before kindergarten, and if no issues are detected, every two years after. Experts also recommended children keep their device screens at least 30 inches away, and advise taking a break from the screen every 20 minutes, to train their eyes on something at least 20 feet away.

Dr. Donna O’Shea, national chief medical officer of population health for UnitedHealthcare, pointed out regular hearing tests are also a must.

“Like vision and dental, early detection of hearing issues is crucial for getting treatment as soon as possible,” O’Shea advised. “That’s really important because hearing loss can affect a child’s ability to develop speech, language, and social skills.”

O’Shea recommends young people follow the “60-60 rule,” which means only using earbuds or headphones for less than 60 minutes at no more than 60% of the player’s maximum volume.