As February and Children’s Dental Health Month come to a close, we’re reminded that oral health needs to be a priority every month. Good oral health habits and regular visits to their dentist can give kids the strong start they need to have healthy teeth and gums going into adulthood. Pain from dental problems is a leading cause of school absences in Kentucky. Knowing this and that half of second graders in Kentucky are affected by tooth decay1, KOHC’s School-Based Oral Health (SBOH) workgroup works to improve children’s access to the dental care they need.
In 2008, Kentucky Youth Advocates and many others successfully advocated for KRS 156.160, a bill requiring children enrolled in public school kindergarten to get a dental screening or exam.
Recently, Kentucky Youth Advocates and Kentucky Oral Health Coalition released the mandatory kindergarten dental screening/exam data to the KIDS Count Data Center. In the first year the law was in place, 40% of the incoming kindergarteners were reported to have completed a dental screening or exam. By the 2012-2013 school year, that number rose to 49%, and last year it rose again to 52%.2
Over the last four years, the percentage of kindergarteners receiving a dental screening appears to have increased. This is a good start to achieving optimal oral health for Kentucky’s kids, but it leaves the KOHC’s School Based Oral Health (SBOH) workgroup asking, why are only 52% of Kentucky’s kindergarteners completing the mandatory dental screening? What barriers exist to 48% of enrolled kindergarteners who are not completing a dental screening? Have they received the screening and/or exam but their school district has not enter the data from their screening forms?
KOHC’s oral health literacy and SBOH workgroups are promoting the Smiles for Life Curriculum so more children have access to non-dental professionals with the knowledge to complete the mandatory dental screening form. The SBOH workgroup has also developed a survey for superintendents, principals, health coordinators, and Family Resource and/or Youth Service Center (FRYSCs) to assist the workgroup in determining what support or resources schools need to comply with the screening law. The workgroup is creating awareness about the screening by partnering with Kentucky Department of Education and the Associations of School Boards, Superintendents, and School Administrators to stress the importance of early oral health screenings by placing articles in their respective professional association newsletters and journals.
KOHC is dedicated to giving kids the start they need to have a healthy smile and successful future. The dental screening/ exam is a valuable tool to improve the oral health of Kentucky’s youngest population. Check out KOHC’s upcoming events to see how you can get involved in promoting the coalition’s top priorities, including the SBOH workgroup projects.
1 Dawkins et al. (2013). Dental caries among children visiting a mobile dental clinic in South Central Kentucky: A pooled cross-sectional study. BMC Oral Health, 13(19). Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3653808/#B9
2 Kentucky Youth Advocates. (2015). Mandatory kindergarten dental screening/exam. KIDS Count Data Center. Retrieved from http://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/tables/8442-mandatory-kindergarten-dental-screening-exam-number-and-percent-reported?loc=19&loct=2#detailed/2/any/false/1246,1124,1021,909/any/17073,17074