State requires dental exams for freshmen
Add a dental exam to the books, binders and pens high school freshmen will need when they start school this year, according to a new Illinois state law.
Effective Jan. 1, the law applies to public, private and parochial schools and covers the 2019-20 school year. About 150,000 incoming freshmen are affected.
“Our children are our most precious resource, and every child deserves to enter school free of dental pain or problems. Unfortunately, tooth decay and dental disease is a leading cause of decreased school performance and lost school days,” said Illinois State Dental Society President Randall Markarian.
Incoming freshmen will join children in kindergarten, second and sixth grade required to have a dental exam by May 15 at the end of their school year or present proof to their school that their exam has been scheduled in the next 60 days. Failure to present proof of the exam by May 15 may result in the school holding the child’s report card, unless the child presents proof of the completed dental exam or proof that a dental exam will take place within 60 days after May 15.
The Department of Public Health will establish a waiver for children who show an undue burden due to lack of access to a dentist.
“I think it is extremely important that young people get in for dental exams at the 9th grade level,” said Cheryl Watson-Lowry, president of the Chicago Dental Society. “It will allow dentists not only to check for current or upcoming concerns but also allow dentists the opportunity to discuss oral concerns the student may not be aware of and can have negative effects on their health.“
Soda consumption, sugary fresh breath mints, unhealthy snacking, oral piercings, smoking and vaping – all of which affect a young person’s overall health -- are a few of the temptations freshmen face as they start high school, Dr. Watson-Lowry said. “This law will provide an opportunity to address oral prevention as the child is coming of age.“
Since 2005, Illinois has required children entering kindergarten, second and sixth grades to have a dental exam to be in compliance with Illinois Department of Public Health rules, and compliance has been high. The Illinois State Board of Education, which tracks the exam results, reported the compliance level for all students since 2005 at around 80%.