According to the Governor’s Ky Health Now Initiative, Kentucky ranks 45th in the percentage of children with untreated dental decay (34.6%). The Pew Center on States gave Kentucky a “C” grade in providing oral health care to children in their latest report. Yet, it’s difficult to truly know where Kentucky stands on children’s oral health since the state has not systematically collected data on children’s oral health in over a decade.
In 2008, Kentucky passed a bill to ensure children entering kindergarten receive an oral health screening. The goals of this screening are to help oral health problems be addressed so they don’t interfere with a child’s ability to learn and to help Kentucky track where we stand on children’s oral health.
Right now, the information collected from the oral health screening is not entered systematically into a data tracking system, so we don’t have quality data available from the screening forms. This is a missed opportunity to learn about the needs and dental health status of Kentucky’s youngest students.
The Kentucky Oral Health Coalition (KOHC) hopes to increase awareness of the oral health needs of children by advocating for changes to Kentucky’s current kindergarten oral health screening regulations. KOHC recently submitted public comments addressing oral health segments of the Kentucky Department of Education‘s school health forms and regulations as well as broader oral health policies.
KOHC members and oral health stakeholders proposed the following changes to the screening requirement in their comments:
- Establish a systematic referral process for children identified with dental decay
- Expand training to nurses and other health professionals such as pediatricians
- Require, enforce, and incentivize data entry from the screening form
- Create linkage agreements with community health professionals and schools
- Update the screening form for clarity and standardization
- Ensure that the form is distributed and educated to those who need it, such as dentists, nurses, and pediatricians
KYA and KOHC members value the Kentucky Department of Education’s work towards promoting good health for all students in the Commonwealth. KOHC stands ready to promote and collaborate with the Kentucky Department of Education to implement these changes recommended.